On Parenting: Meghan Leahy took your questions

(by Katie Jett Walls)
Apr 01, 2020

Meghan Leahy, a parenting coach with Positively Parenting, joined On Parenting editor Amy Joyce to talk about parenting children of all ages.

Good morning, everyone. How are you holding up? It's an incredibly difficult time and I hope you are also finding a moment or two of joy, love, and cuddles with your kids in there. 

Here's Meghan's latest column. (I hope this grandma is doing her grandparenting via Facetime now!)

Lots of questions await (and of course most of them have to do with our new world of parenting during coronavirus)... Let's get to it, shall we? 

Two weeks in and I'm already dreading a return to "normal" with our 2.5 year old, whenever that may be. While I'm glad she's too young to really understand why we're all suddenly home, or to really worry about what she's learning academically, this is the most time we've spent together really since maternity leave as an infant. Do you have any suggestions for how to prepare for this eventual return to daycare, etc.? I'm concerned that after having spent the better part of a month(or more) with just mom and dad, going back to daycare will be quite the shock. We've tried to keep the same basic routine(meal and nap times) but I'm not sure what else to do. Additionally, in less than two weeks we've gone from a kid who wouldn't sit in front of the TV to one who gets MAD when it's turned off, I'm ok with a little TV time, but how do we go back to the kid who could care less about the TV?!

There's no going back. 

I don't mean to sound gloom or doom, it's just true.

And the good news? It is okay. 

Humans are built to adapt and adapt and adapt...and so, is your daughter's routine all a mess? Sure. But she is totally fine. She is safe, she is warm, she is fed, but above all she has you. Everything is else is gravy.

Do you need to worry about her learning? Absolutely not. Until around 7 years of age, children are really meant to learn through playing...so focus on PLAYING. 

Will you have a rough transition when it is time for her to go back to daycare? Yup. Most likely. We all will have a hard time. And you have to trust that you can get through it.You will do what you need to do when you need to do it. There is no sense worrying about the future, because you don't even really know what is going to happen.

Are you using tech with your kid more than you ever thought you would? Yup! We all are. Rules are regulations are being tossed out of the window to preserve sanity, our own work schedules, and combat the sheer exhaustion and boredom that is accompanied with being locked in our houses with each other. You WILL be able to wean her off...she will be okay. 

So, when you start to dread the future, say to yourself, "Of course you dread this, you don't know what will happen. AND I will manage!" And then keep on keepin' on.

I know these are unprecedented times. My 3 year old loves being outdoors, going to the parks, and going shopping with us. All the playgrounds are taped off and closed. We have decided that only 1 person will go into a store right now. We can go on walks and hikes, but my toddler doesn't seem to want to walk anymore. She seems bored or sad. She doesn't want to play with her toys and just wants to sit on the couch and watch TV. We try and come up with new activities, but she just isn't interested or she finishes them in 5 min. Is it ok in times like these to just throw on the TV and let her mope? We have told her there are lots of germs out there and we can't go to all these places b/c there are lots of sick people. Yesterday her mom ran in the grocery store while I stayed in the car with her and her 11 month old sister and the 3 year old just had a thousand mile stare and wouldn't talk to me.

Yes, it is okay to throw on the TV and let her mope.

In almost all other parenting situations, we want our children to appropriately suffer and change, but in the case of a pandemic? We have to pick our battles because almost everything is off the table that brings kids joy. Friends and parks and sports, etc. so yeah. In order to sidestep your 80th battle, you turn on Youtube.

Do what you need to do to get through this time with as much equanimity as you can muster.

Also, I love what Tinkergarten is doing right now, and your three year old is perfect for it!

How do you keep teenagers from being on screens non-stop and having some semblance of a schedule, not to mention just getting them to get dressed when they are understandably upset about not seeing their friends or being able to have end of HS fun, but knowing if pjs, bed, and screens non-stop goes on too much longer it will be so terribly unhealthy for them. How does one get teenagers to have some self-care maintenance in all of this?

Here's a piece I did on all the screens. Meghan? You can tackle the rest (and I can't wait to hear your answer... )

Ugh. I have a 16 yo and a 13 yo. I hear you.

So, the standards are completely different, and I think we all know that.

Why shower if you don't need to? Why get up when you don't need to? Why get dressed if there is no where to go?

What we know is that tech makes this low (or high) level of depression higher, so parents are tasked with both not pushing too hard, while also placing much-needed boundaries to keep their brains safe.

So, yeah.

How to do that? I dunno.

Find your teen's sweet spot. Do they like to earn money? Can they take on work and you pay them extra? Can you help them to make plans, for when this is all over, for how to spend the money? Or where they will go with their friends?

Can they help you with tech? Outreach with grandma? Can they offer to cut an elderly neighbor's yard? Can they bake cookies for someone in your neighborhood, like an elderly man or a new mom?

Any ideas you have, you must sit down with a teen and meet them halfway. I suggest a drive or a walk or a meeting at the table or whatever and have a meeting. You have to recreate your rules and expectations...together. Whatever you end up with will probably not be your ideal, but the number one thing we want to preserve out of this ordeal is our connection to our kids. So, game with your child, teach them old school card games, start running with them (uggg), anything to break up the day...and know that some days will be better than others. 

It must have been hard for my mother as I was naturally more like my father so we had an unthinking affinity. My mother tended to baffle me a bit as I'm more rational and she's more intuitive. Mum navigated this brilliantly and called me on some things, let a lot of things go and loved me fully and fiercely, As I grew older, I began to appreciate her differences. We've always been close.

That is so good...thank god for good mothers.

Learning to work with your elementary-aged child while helping or assisting homework is a real skill. What are parents doing to avoid meltdowns, upset, anger from both participants, etc.?

Ummmm, I don't know?

I have an elementary student and we have meltdowns, upset, and anger...almost every day. And I am supposed to be a parent coach, so yeah.

This is not a normal situation. Almost all of us never wanted to teach our own children, and this is why it is a special skill that people get years and year of education for...and we don't have that. And even for those of us we education backgrounds (me) we are NOT meant to teach our own children. We love them and that gets in the way. We are waaaaay too invested in the outcome, and this makes for power struggles.

So, stop assisting in the homework. Just stop. It is hurting your relationship with your child, it is making homework SUCK, and it is making already long days, longer. 

Your child will make it out of this...but please eliminate the struggles you don't need to take on.

Is there a way the teachers or school can help? Are there other ideas? Can you just make the learning fun and bypass the homework?

In a normal situation, homework is fairly useless, so now it definitely not the time to push it.

 

Husband and I are in our 70s with no health problems at all. Daughter and family live 10 minutes away. Kids are aged 3 and 7. Since March 10th husband and I have been home other than 3 cautious trips to buy food. Kids have been home full time for nearly 10 days. Their parents are working from home too but, again, have had to shop once or twice for food (using sanitizing protocols). With no one sick and no one going into his risk situations, it feels wrong not to be helping with the kids. Other friends our age who live within walking distance of their grandkids keep them every day, sometimes overnight. Even though the grandkids' parents are also working from home. Their son and wife are expecting a baby soon. It seems like our situation doesn't really differ from theirs other than we have to drive to get to the grandchildren, Shouldn't we be helping too? But everything you read says people our age should stay away from children (but even if the children at at home full time? Thanks. Confusing times.

Ugggg, this is so hard.

Listen, we can find ways to sidestep the rules and there are situations where emergencies must be met, but otherwise? STAY HOME.

STAY AWAY FROM THE KIDS.

While it feel interminable, a time WILL come when you will all be together again. You will help your heart out. Now is now that time.

Instead, start a nightly Zoom reading time with the kids. Write them cards and send them in the mail. Ask for art. Send them books and crafts and ask to see the results. Listen to you daughter when she is too exhausted and offer her encouragement. Tell your grown daughter stories of when she was little and how good she was. Revisit some funny stories with her and make her laugh. Send her tea. And lip chap. And fuzzy slippers.

Stay away...you will be with them before you know it.

I am trying to homeschool my kindergartner 2-2 1/2 hours a day (basic English and math/numbers for 10-15 min each and then fun videos like Scholastic online or reading books, doing art/music/experiments/play). She is 5 1/2. Her teacher said she was a model student, and she is smart. However, for me, whenever she makes a mistake, and I correct her, she throws a fit. Whenever I try to get her to work on sight words (and it is only for 5 minutes), she throws a fit. She claims she knows it all. Eventually she will settle down and get to work. But, this is tiring! I am doing lots of cuddle time with her. I just don't know what to do. There are so many more fun things we can do together if she didn't take so much time to fuss. I also can't take all day, because I have to work from home.

Lay off.

Just take a break.

You are not her teacher. Her teacher is her teacher, you are the parent.

Above all, DO NOT CORRECT HER WORK.

Your job is to keep MANY plates spinning the air...corrrecting a K-student's work? Not a plate worth spinning.

So, make all learning fun and a game, look up Tinkergarten for some fun ideas, I love Wide Open School and let this all feel as easy as humanly possible.

My parents -- in their late sixties with chronic health conditions and, in the case of my mom, immune system issues -- live four minutes away from me, and nine minutes from my sister. My sister and I both have young children. The closest ANYBODY has gotten to my parents is to stand 10 feet away at the opposite end of the driveway and talk for a bit. I'm doing this now so in a few months my toddler and I can hug them. Stay away from the kids. They would much rather watch you on Zoom now so they can sit on your laps later.

Hello! I have identical twin girls who just turned four. They were successfully potty trained shortly after they turned three, but a few months ago one of them has begun wetting her pants, not all the way, but enough that we have to change her pants a few times a day unless we make her sit on the potty every hour. She has easy accessible potties, and is able to go independently, which she still does, just not all the time. She is also not upset at all when she wets her pants, and may even think it is funny. This started before any of the COVID issues, and she never had a problem when at her morning preschool or when running errands, so I believe she can control it. I will bring it up at her 4-year check up, but I have postponed that for now to limit exposure (my MIL lives with us), but do you have any recommendations if it is not a physical issue? I don't want to shame her, but am also tired of finding wet spots on the couch (we do make her help clean them, but it doesn't bother her). I thought of a reward at the end of the day, but I don't know if it would make her more upset that her sister would always get one and she may not. We don't compare the two but I couldn't leave her sister out of a treat. Thank you!

Put potties all over the house, put her pull-up's and ignore this for a while.

Sounds weird, but the more attention you give this, the worse it will get.

Do NOT reward her unless you reward both. And also, rewards have a way of being shaming...when she has an accident and DOESN'T get a sticker or treat, she may start to hide or defecate in secret.

Not good.

I honestly would ignore this for a while and talk to the dr when you can...

What's the best way to respond when your young kids call you names when they are having a tantrum? Things like calling me (mom) "stupid girl" when he's mad at me for e.g., saying he needs to stop stalling and get in the shower right now. I'm trying to stay calm during unreasonable tantrums but the name calling really gets under my skin. My kids are 5 and 3. The 3 year old is learning from the 5 year old. I think the 5 year old picked it up from kids at daycare because they are not names/terms we use at home at all and they're not going to learn it from the shows they watch. Obviously the current stress isn't helping the number of tantrums.

I don't know if I am beaten down by three kids, but I just mostly ignore it. 

Whatever you pay attention to, grows. 

So, don't pay it too much mind...she will stop. Or not...and then you will look at the roots of why she is doing it, and try other solutions.

Meghan... tell us what your philosophy is about teaching kids right now, pretty please? 

Okay, here's the deal:

You have to clarify what you are doing during Covid.

You are:

1. Providing a safe and loving home, physically and emotionally.

2. You are providing good food and outside time and reassurance.

3. You are providing strong leadership and a calm presence.

4. You are showing what it looks like to be patient and flexible.

You are not:

1. A teacher

2. A piano instructor 

3. A soccer coach

4. A linguist

5. A reading expert

6. Someone who specializes in LD's.

7. A tech expert 

We know that kids learn through play, so be a person who plays. And provides an environment where learning can ensue a BIT more naturally.

Provide enough structure and goals for YOUR child to feel safe, but not more than needed.

We need to get out of this with RELATIONSHIPS in tact, NOT CURRICULUM.

Please, you are not the teacher.

 

 

I assume the schools will all be in the same catch-up boat once they reopen, so they will have plans in place to cope with the lost time. Don't try to replace the educators and put more stress on your family.

I love to mention my son's middle school principal, who keeps telling parents to allow for grace for the kids, the teachers and themselves. And, she reminds us, all children are in this situation. Their educators will meet them where they are when they get back to school. Do  your best, let them learn the way they learn, have some fun and stay safe and healthy. 

Thank you all for joining us. We're covering this new world nonstop over here at On Parenting. You can sign up for our newsletter, if you haven't, and get it all sent right to your inbox. 

Take care, be well and stay home. 

In This Chat
Meghan Leahy
Meghan Leahy is a D.C.-based parent coach. She holds a master’s degree in school counseling from Johns Hopkins, taught high school English, and was a Parent Educator with PEP. She is the mom of three girls.
Amy Joyce
Amy Joyce has been at The Post, well, for a long time. Her first foray in to online chats were related to work. Now she's happy to chat about fun (but would like to believe the two can be one). She has been a Business reporter, editor for Weekend and the Going Out guide, and is now editing and writing for On Parenting. When not at work, she can be seen unsuccessfully dodging wiffle balls in her front yard.
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