On Parenting: Meghan Leahy took your questions

(by Katie Jett Walls)
Apr 15, 2020

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

Hi, everyone. Thanks for submitting questions today. Sorry for the delay, but we had some production problems on this end. Meghan was online, though, and answered as many questions as she could, so we're publishing that now. Please join us again on April 29 for her next chat, and take good care of yourselves in the meantime.

Not a question but more of a suggestion. You’ve said to grandparents who want to help their working children but can’t due to social distancing that they could stay involved via bedtime stories. Which makes sense but feels like it’s missing a big obvious option. It’s usually during the working day that parents working from home are really struggling, so why not have a daytime session with the grandkids? Could be story time, or if they’re older then maybe going through some school work, or simultaneously taking a virtual tour through a museum, zoo or national park - whatever kids and grands are mutually interested in. Having a scheduled time where parents know they can focus on work could be incredibly helpful, even if it’s just half an hour.

Absolutely.

 

Every parent should look at their own schedules and do what works for them (and their kids).

 

Thanks for the suggestion!

So my 2nd grader decided to flash our extended family during a 13 person family Zoom chat the other day. We immediately got off the call, told her that was not appropriate, and told her no social video chatting for a week. However throughout the week she has been asking us "what if" questions; i.e. "What if I'm sleeping and my shirt rolls up?", "What if the wind blows my shirt up?" I think she is genuinely wondering what the boundaries/ harm is in these situation, and not trying to be smart. (I have a feeling that her behaviour on the family zoom call was a desire for attention- we have a loud, chaotic family, and many of them have more resources than we do, and so there is often a lot of talk about things and opportunities that our family doesn't have, or choose to have. ) anyhow- do you have any suggestions or resources for how to talk to her about why flashing her cousins (or really anyone) is a bad idea? I mean, I can say private parts are private, but I'm having a hard time articulating why, especially in a way that is free of guilt, shame, or gender stereotypes. (Growing up, my mother always would say things weren't "lady-like" and I never liked that.) I guess I'm looking for guidance on a) how to help my daughter deal with her need for attention, and b) how to articulate to her what is "appropriate" behaviour and why.

Huh...

hmmmm.

I am assuming that she lifted her shirt to the camera and the family?

Hmmm.

This makes me think of my youngest, who would get up on a table and shake her booty...sometimes naked, and sometimes clothed.

Truthfully, it was cute and very funny, and I was never upset...and maybe because it was my youngest and tired, but I would just grab her and say, "hey, shake your booty down here." or "Go put on underwear, come back and shake your booty."

It just didn't bother me, but I also think I knew that the more attention I gave it, the worse it would get. The more attention being lectures, punishment, big angry eyes, etc.

Anyway, let's lift the punishment and shame. It is her body and we don't need the shame tied to it. 

This is a "the areas a bathing suit covers are for your room" conversation...which is really the beginning of a body and sexuality conversation.

You want to empower her to love her body, not hide it. This is not about being a lady, this is about where and when.

Peruse the books (I love the american girl doll books about the body) and get reading WITH her.

Also, fill her need for silly attention by having her produce shows or short skits for your family zoom. She can have her voice heard, be and feel seen, while staying appropriate and creative.

Finally, don't make this a thing. She's 8, not 18. It was a quick decision, it doesn't carry the weight you are placing on it. Move on...it is the healthiest thing for all of you.

My main worry during this whole pandemic crisis is my son's ability to maintain his friendships while we are in lockdown. He is 11 and is in 6th grade; he's an extrovert and is really suffering from not being in school and seeing his friends. Despite his being an extrovert, it took years for him to develop good friendships and now this has all come to an abrupt halt. He has connected with some friends through online games and through Zoom Scout sessions. But overall, he seems uninterested in hanging out with people online; he wants to see them in person. I think the games aspect is the best option; any other suggestions for us? I really hope this will be over soon...

Oh man. I am feeling for my extroverts right now. To get energy from and with others...this time is a nightmare for them. It can literally feel like they are suffocating. 

So, you do what you can, how you can and when you can.

The gaming? Yes. 

Zoom? YES.

Sharing apps that you can play with others (like words with friends) yes.

You can also have him MAKE things for his friends (cookies, etc) and drop them off. They can wave and chat, your son from his car and his friend from his front step. Physically leaving the house can feel really good for our kids, and as long as you aren't breaking distance rules, it is okay.

But the truth is that you need to continue to make room for his disappointment, frustration, and sadness. 

Just keep him talking about it...while you walk or drive or whatever. Feeling his sadness won't fix his problem, but it will help to keep all these emotions moving. And that's what he needs the most.

So we are very fortunate. I just started back to work from maternity leave but can readily do my full job from home. My husband just started his planned parental leave, so he can care for the children full time. It’s not perfect - our house isn’t big so my workspace is in open plan living area - but luckier than some. The problem - my husband cannot seem to get the baby down for naps. He tries for a bit, then comes down and says it’s not working, baby must not be tired. If I try I can get her down pretty easily. So the weekend was great, then back to work Monday and once again I’m stressed because there’s a baby who cannot be put down (because she’s tired!), a big kid wanting attention which dad can’t give because he’s holding the baby and increasingly stressed husband. If parental leave had gone to plan it would have been fine - older child would be in childcare and he would have time to figure it out without stressing me. But as it is I can’t step in much, but feel like I should (when I’m meant to be working), and am worried about undermining my husband’s confidence while also getting frustrated that he doesn’t seem to get that she really is tired and giving up won’t help. He claims he’s doing the stuff I suggest, I don’t know if it’s just she likes how I smell or if he’s doing something different. But argh! What do we do so baby can sleep, big kid can get attention, dad can catch a breath and I can get some work done?

I mean...I dunno. Just put down the kid yourself.

Tell your work partners you need to do this, and do it.

These are not normal situations, and I am not sure that listening to this struggle (the baby, the dad, the big kid) is worth it.

You can take the older child out for a walk on the weekends (or during the week) and let Dad work this out himself, but otherwise, try to work this out with your work...

My kids (12, 10, 7) are declining all of the virtual ways of boosting friendship right now - they say the don't want Zoom or Facetime calls. But the few times they've done such calls, they've been deeply cheered by them - they laugh, are happy to see their friends, and it's been really noticeable that it has a positive impact. It's the getting started that they don't want to do, especially because it's not the same as seeing friends in person (which I get! It's not the same. It's hard, and we are mourning these changes). It feels like just one virtual connection with a friend once a week would be good for their souls - and help to maintain bonds of friendship. Any tips for encouraging them to connect? Does this even matter? Once they get started they're happy to be connecting with friends - but I don't want this to become a major headache or battle of wills, especially because their dad is an (amazing, kind, overwhelmed) first responder and so I'm feeling extra conscious of all of our emotional/mental health and isolation.

Make it part of the routine, put in on the cal, and always say this, "If you hop on and you are NOT feeling it, use "Code Word that you both choose" and I will tell you to hang up." 

This gives the power back to the child while I also achieving the purpose of getting them on the Zoom. And also, there MAY be days that your child doesn't want to be social, and that is okay.

You can also sit down and explain that it is totally normal to feel apathetic about connecting...and let your kids get out all of their feelings. Remember, all feelings are valid. If you can somehow agree with them in saying, "Yes, I want to see grandma AND it makes me sad to see her, at the same time," your children may appreciate that we can hold two feelings at the same time.

This is hard...just keep going.

My husband and I have 3 kids. A 4th grader and two 2nd graders. We're fortunate in that my husband is a stay at home dad, and I'm able to work from home during this pandemic. My kids are understandably having a hard time with all of this, but one of my 2nd graders is having an exceptionally hard time. While his twin has figured out that if he buckles down and does the work, he can be finished quickly and do fun things, he is struggling to focus. In some ways it helps that they have the exact same schoolwork (less work for my husband) but in other ways it makes it harder because when he sees his brother finished and doing fun things, it just makes him more upset. My husband is being incredibly patient, but it is getting worse every day. I'm at the point of saying "forget it, it's not worth it", but if we do it for one, then we'll need to do it for all 3, and that's not ideal. Every day we're dealing with hour long temper tantrums over little things. He's sleeping about 12 hours a night, and we're trying to give him lots of love and support, but we're at our wits ends. Any and every little thing sets him off - and he lashes out at us and his brothers. Any suggestions?

Okay. Here's the deal:

I would have everyone work 9-12 (or whatever hours you want to set), and then end it there.

Boom, done.

Don't compare and don't make play and outside contingent on the completion of work.

In fact, can you play THEN work.

Your son may need to move his body and brain FIRST, then sit down to do some work. 

In either case, there is no sense in the comparison and pushing.

Have a separate meeting with him and away from his twin and say, "we have talked with your teachers, and they are very proud of your work and how well you have done" (have the teacher write an e-mail expressing this...and yes, a good teacher will do this in a heartbeat). Tell your son, "We have a  work block every day from 1-3 and whatever you get done is great. We are proud of you, this isn't easy to be away from your friends and teacher."

Let your tone feel easy, and celebrate every step he takes, celebrate every effort. Let your face feel easy, and have a smile on your face and in your eyes. 

He is little. Remember that.

I’m a terrible homeschool teacher to my 3 kids. 11,8,4.I know this and I don’t enjoy it- I am not working at the moment, so I am The teacher. My husband is working from home in the living room while we are all in the kitchen. He has commented that I’m not using a good tone with the kids. No kidding- I’m frustrated and overwhelmed. Going between trying to figure out google classroom with the 8 year old to trying the wrangle the 4y to do some form of letters. The 11 is doing jigsaw puzzles between assignments and I don’t care. I don’t know what’s worse. The 4y who can’t figure out how to print the letter A, or the husband walking in telling me to stay cheerful. Besides cancelling school or deleting the husband, how to find some happiness with a terrible situation.

Join the club.

First things first...stop being the homeschooler. You are the parent, not the teacher.

Write that down on a sticky and hang it wherever you go.

YOU ARE THE PARENT.

Secondly, have a meeting with yourself about what YOU can really get done (and what you cannot).

Thirdly, the 4 yo needs NO school (just play and boundaries) and the 8 yo needs only a little. So, I would exercise the heck outta these kids first thing in the morning. Nature walks, playing "I-SPY," visiting gardens, looking for bugs, sidewalk chalk....whatever works...just get outside and moving the body. THEN I would sit them down for a little bit of "school" whatever that looks like.

Please, drop all of these expectations and create your OWN schedule so that your tone can stay as even and kind as humanly possible (acknowledging that you will lose your patience frequently).

My husband and I struggling with our son, 9, who is intellectually ahead of his peers, but emotionally behind. He's ADHD, and we manage this with medication and with consistent meetings a counselor. (The meetings haven't been happening with covid and I think it's starting to really show.) He's always been extremely emotional and sensitive, but lately his anxiety with what's happening in the world has begun to manifest with fidgeting and an inability to express exactly what's bothering him. His dramatics have also been on the upswing. This was happening in the months before the shut down, but it's worse now. It feels like he's the little boy who sees a chihuahua and cries wolf about everything. All of our regular resources are either closed or inaccessible right now and it's looking like we have more months of this. We can't even access little joys like our park for obvious reasons, and too much screen time makes him awful, though he insists he wants more. We're all struggling. He has two younger siblings and we're all in our home together right now. I can't seem to find a good release valve with our/the world's current situation. Any ideas or insights?

I would find Holly Moses and TiLT Parenting, listen to these podcasts, and join the FB groups.

There are supportive, smart, and creative parents on these sites who are in the exact same boat as you...and you will find community and relief there.

Also, why can't he meet with his counselor via Zoom. Most regulation have been lifted to enable exactly this kind of support...please get that going again.

Also, I would look into gifted communities for more support.

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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