On Parenting: Meghan Leahy took your questions

(by Katie Jett Walls)
May 13, 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 all. Hanging in? I mean... I know. It's crazy. I'll let Meghan get to it here. Here's her latest column about concerns about a grandson regressing during the pandemic. 

Okay, lots of questions await. Let's get to it. 

How much death and dying on TV (running tallies of CV deaths, other news stories) is too much for kids to hear? My kids seem unaffected now, but will we discover when it’s too late that they’ve been overexposed?

Depends on the kid.

For some children, one death is one too many. Their sensitivity is too great, and the story stays with them.

Some kids go about their day, and the news truly is background noise.

My recommendation? No news and know your own kid, no matter the age.

Hi Meghan, our almost five-year old was in a great place before COVID--expressing his emotions well, pottying well, and deciding on his own to stop sucking his thumb. Understandably, COVID has challenged him emotionally, and has affected his mood, pottying, and thumb-sucking. We are giving him lots of love and hugs, and rolling with these changes. Am wondering if you have any additional strategies to try? Thanks so much!

In short, no.

If everything were "normal" (whatever that means), there may be some ideas, but given that his world changed overnight, I think you are doing what is called for right now: love and hugs, and rolling with these times.

You cannot rush or push development, and this holds true when there is regression, too. The mind and body move backward to keep us safe, and so what are you meant to do? Provide safety, which is love and hugs and calmly rolling on.

As he adapts and regulates to this new time, his regression will fall away.

You are not in charge of this timing, only the environment you provide.

So, no punishing, no coercion, no talking talking about it.

Just keep it rolling.

I'm working from home with a 2 year old. I have to get my work done. I have deadlines and meetings so I can't take long breaks through out the day to take him outside or to do activities with him. As a consequence, he is spending most of the day just watching his kid shows on TV. It keeps him happy and I get my work done. But I feel terrible about it. Any advice?

Are you co-parenting with a partner?

If yes, try splitting up the day with them so that the child gets more attention and play.

If you are parenting solo, take any break you can to get you both outside. Have an easy grab-and-go basket of snacks, grab a couple of GO OUTSIDE. Chalk, jumping jacks, running in circles, ANYTHING. If that isn't possible, get running and jumping in that room you are in. Frequent, short breaks are GOOD and WORTH IT.

If possible, set up a little play station near you with play doh or whatever he likes until he loses interest and the show needs to go on....

And make sure the TV is slow TV (sesame street, etc).

And do the best you can. This won't last forever and you can only do the best you can.

Hi Meghan, I love your chats. They have helped me navigate many issues with my 3yo and 10 month old - thank you for doing them! I normally work full-time out of the house while my husband works full-time from home, but the four of us have been house-bound since mid-March and I am worried about this coinciding with my youngest developing separation anxiety. I went back to work after 12 weeks with both my boys. My youngest never had an issue with taking a bottle, while I pumped at work. Since about 3 weeks of quarantine, though, he has completely refused the bottle - since I'm right here! He typically nurses/gets milk every 3 hrs during the day - and the longest we have held out was about 7 hrs between feedings, but I couldn't take his pitiful crying so I fed him. These bottle attempts are while I'm out of sight working in our basement, so it's not that he can see me but maybe he knows I'm in the house?? It helps me not to have to pump...but is also causing me anxiety about the eventual return to work. We have tried several cups with/without straws as an alternative, but he hasn't really figured those out. In addition, he's just much clingier to me and my husband than before - crying when we leave the room, wanting to be held, etc. We typically enlist both sets of grandparents to help with childcare during the week, which has obviously stopped since March as well, so he doesn't get 'practice' being away from us. Is there anything we can do to minimize the eventual backlash when I go back to work (probably part time, probably soon...)? Thank you!

I totally get all of your anxiety with all of these changes and cup refusal and breastfeeding and what not, but please know this: it will be okay.

That isn't to say that getting that little one off to daycare won't be hard, but there is no sense in making your present miserable for a maybe miserable future. Who knows? Maybe the little one will be fine.

Here's the thing: you are home, you are working, you are raising two children with another working parent...my heavens: breastfeed the kid and know it will be okay. Don't add your worries to your present issues, it is just too much.

Have faith. Faith is the firm belief in something for which there is no proof (thank you Merriam-Webster), and while you cannot "see" the attachment you have to your baby, it is there and it will sustain your relationship with him when everything changes again.

So, take the path of least resistance here and have faith it will work out.

During this pandemic, there has been a lot of talk about alcohol--and tons of memes, social media posts, and flippant jokes about it. How can these have a negative impact on our kids and parenting? And how should the topic of alcohol be addressed at home?

Are your kids getting the memes? Just seeing them?

In any case, this is a perfect time to talk about substance abuse...given that people abuse almost everything in times of great stress. And we are STRESSED.

I don't know how old your kids are, but you can always start the conversation. Alcohol is especially hard because it is legal and everywhere, but so destructive. And we have a slightly black and view of it: ADDICT OR NOT.

The truth is that most people who abuse alcohol are not addicted, but they are hurting their lives nonetheless.

Abusing a substance that either heightens or deadens your senses will eventually lead to problems, seen or unseen.

Can you start a conversation with your kids that allows for nuance and thoughtfulness?


I have a 2.5 year old who is an amazing eater, which is a small miracle considering my husband and I were both extremely picky childhood eaters. Overall, my feeling is mealtime should be enjoyable and while I decide what is served, we typically trust her to determine what and how much to eat, and not much of a fuss over what she did or did not eat. She will also will pretty much try everything. My issue is, she frequently spits out her food. I feel like I've let it go because she's so good about trying anything, and I generally feel like if she's trying something new, it should be a fair reaction that she doesn't like it. My problem is, she'll often spit out food I know for a fact she's eaten before, or sometimes she'll spit out a food after she's already taken and swallowed several bites. I'm not sure how to react to this, obviously it's gross but at 2.5, I'm not sure she understands that. I also don't want to discourage her from trying new foods. Help?

I don't see any problems here.

2.5 yo is a pretty tactile human, and maybe she spits because she tastes too much sour or bitter, or maybe she doesn't like the texture. 

Or maybe she does it because it gets your attention.

Either way, if you think she is doing it as a little game, after she spits out the food simply say, "All done!" and take the plate.

If she hungry, she will learn to keep eating and this isn't a game.

Otherwise, just ignore it.



I have 3 boys, (4th grade, & twins in 2nd grade). We live in a great school district, and love their school. We're halfway through week 9 of distance learning and have 5 more weeks to go. They clearly are not learning as much as they would in a classroom, but we're doing the best we can. My bigger worry is that if school doesn't return to normal in the fall, then we're looking at more than half a year of non-classroom environment. I just don't know how we can expect grade school age kids make up for all the content they're missing. I'm beginning to think that unless things get back to normal I'd prefer my kids to repeat 4th and 2nd grade - and hopefully come out with about the same level of mastery as if they had been in the classroom for a full school year. My husband disagrees - he thinks that they need to move up because all of their friends will be moving up. My guess is I'm not the only parent that feels this way and that there will be a number of kids that would benefit from repeating their current grade.

I think we are a long way off from knowing who will need what and when.

I suggest make a possibilities list. Put all your choices on it for next year. Repeat the year, abbreviated year, may go all year, split-time year...you name it.

The point is that you are in the same boat as EVERYONE else, and districts and private schools and everyone will need to make decisions.

You will balance what they are doing with what your kids need...and you don't know that yet.

So, keep going, write down your worries and options, and shelf them.

We just don't know yet...

Any tips of my helping my 7yr old son that now hates online school? He's very social and loves actual school, but now misses his friends and finds online school boring and confusing. I usually have to sit with him and basically talk him through every assignment, but now he's starting to be unwilling even to do that. I've talked to his sweet but busy teacher, she tells me to not stress & let him work at his own pace, but if he's not doing school he wants to watch TV or play Animal Crossing or Minecraft. When I made the rules school then fun, he rebelled and screamed at me, hit me for the first time since he was a toddler and cried in his room the rest of the day. I'm also working remotely and the whole dynamic is soul crushing! His public grade school goes year round, so this year is done 5/22, but new year (online) starts 6/3 and i'm so exhausted and lost. Thanks.

Take a break.


I mean it.

Relationship first.

Take the week off and plan the day with other stuff. There can be chores and manual labor and scavenger hunts and bike riding and gardening and whatever else, but back off the school work.

Please let the teachers know that you need a break, they will get it.

And when things are feeling a little less charged, try to chat with him about school. Shoot hoops or go for a drive and see what he says.

I am guessing that he is fried...and he is allowed to be.

Do what you need to do.

I don't know how old your kids are, but it might help to talk to them about it in the context of food and diet - how when we're stressed we reach for the cheesecake / chips etc but it's not healthy, how some people develop problem eating and need help to get back on track etc. It'll be less academic for them.

Yeah, food is super-tricky since we have to have it to live and it is so easily abused.

See Rebecca Stritchfield for more thinking on this.

Our four and a half year old will obsess over getting something and will not be able to let it go. These are usually sugary foods or new toys. We understand the request and why she's making them (who doesn't want cookies and new things all the time!) but she has recently become unable to let go of the requests. She will ask repeatedly for hours, and when we say no she will be unable to talk about or respond to anything else. Should we be worried about this behavior? And is there anyway we can help her get over this?

It is typical for four year old's to beat a drum for a looooong time, especially if they feel it is getting traction with you, but if you are worried about obsessive thoughts and behaviors, please call your pediatrician and check out this site.

Quarantine is turning my already normally defiant 6 year old into an absolute monster. If left to his own devices he would spend the entire day on screens or torturing his sister (seriously - SO MUCH FIGHTING). He refuses to do any kind of schoolwork, or even just read. With an 8 year old who needs a lot of guidance and a toddler who can't be left unsupervised, it is killing us as working parents. I almost don't even know what my question is, I am just on the verge of telling him to camp in the backyard until school starts back up.

I think there is an answer in here.

My friend Pleasance set up a tent for her kids.

It is their office.

Can your son have a tent? A spot?

Can he camp a little?

Seriously. A sleeping bag, food, toys, a slack line, some ninja warrior stuff? 

Kick him outside! :)

Follow your instincts here...

Thank you all for joining us. Please take good care of yourselves (and others!) as we get through this time. Looking for more parenting content? Sign up for our newsletter here

Talk to you here in two weeks. 

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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