Over the past few months Emily Helpard has answered countless questions from Bigs curious about how to engage their Littles in physical activity and stay connected during COVID-19.  

As a mentoring program specialist, Emily is in direct contact with matches and works with them throughout their mentorship journey; helping to answer questions, offer suggestions for time together, and listen.  

The pandemic has changed the nature of these matches and suggested activities. With limited in-person meet-ups, most matches have been operating exclusively online making the list of potential activities shorter.  

Bigs and parents of Littles have noticed changes in their behaviour since the start of the pandemic. Emily recalled one mother of a Little in a community-based matched describing her child as a “couch potato.”  

“We’ve seen our Littles…they’ve been dramatically impacted by [the] COVID [-19 pandemic], said Emily. “They’ve shifted from going into school every day to now simply doing it virtually. They’ve been engaging with their Bigs in person outside, doing activities, and now for the most part its gone virtual.”  

According to Emily, that’s had drastic changes on their daily routines and activities.  

“Physical health has been impacted by not being able to go out and do extracurriculars or go out and see their Big,” said Emily.  

One Little even mentioned outright that changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted him physically and mentally.  

“There’s an anxiety in terms of not knowing what’s going to happen next. Not being able to see their Big as they usually would,” said Emily.  

Changes in behaviour have been a common discussion between Emily and Bigs during their check-ins. Bigs have been asking for suggestions of how to keep their Littles active during this time and how to stay connected despite going virtual.  

“We encourage them to stay connected however they possibly can, as long as they’re being consistent,” said Emily.  

“That could be getting on a phone call with them, getting on a video call, asking them how they’re doing, asking them how school’s going. If their Little isn’t as much of a talker then connecting with them virtually through activities.” 

Some of the activities that Emily has suggested have involved cooking, virtual games, books, and exercise.  

“In terms of physical activity, we’ve encouraged them to come up with an exercise challenge. Challenge each other each week to do some sort of physical activity, whether it’s going for a walk or doing x amount of jumping jacks or pushups, but challenging each other each week to stay physically active, but in a competitive way.”  

As the pandemic continues to have a direct impact on the physical and mental health of young people; Bigs are an essential part of keeping their Littles both active and happy.  

Through encouragement, suggestions, and education, mentoring program specialists like Emily are ensuring that Bigs have the resources to continue supporting their Littles through the COVID-19 pandemic until they can connect in person once again.