A Parent’s Guide to Hiking with a Chatterbox

It’s been a terrible year for all of us, especially kids. The pandemic has eliminated the kind of routine social interaction we’ve all taken for granted. No team sports, no movies, no museums, no sleepovers, no playdates. Parents face the dual tasks of making sure their kids are getting the physical activity they need as well as trying to replace the lost hours of socialization.

“The brain, like other body parts, needs exercise to stay healthy,” says Tracy Inman, associate director of the Center for Gifted Studies at Western Kentucky University. “For our cardiac health, we know it’s important to do aerobic exercise, complete with sweating, huffing, and puffing. Athletic sweat looks very different from academic sweat. The gifted brain thrives on novelty and complexity. So your son’s endless questions strengthen his brain. He’s connecting that new information you provide to what he already knows, understands, or is able to do. The more complex the information, the more his brain works.”

There are seeming frivolous and silly questions, and there are also the more serious questions, the things that get talked about to make sense of what’s happening in the world. Those have spurred discussions about issues like racial inequality and gender identity that might never have taken place while stealing moments between after-school activities and work deadlines in a pre-COVID world.

While marathon conversations can be as exhausting as a slog up a mountain, they are also a learning experience. No adventure is as nerve-racking as taking care of a kid, but each trip is like a progress report, some assurance that you’re not raising a future junk-bond trader or an internet troll.

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