On Parenting: Meghan Leahy took your questions

(by Katie Jett Walls)
Jul 08, 2020

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

Hello, our family of 3 has been very cautious when it comes to COVID. We have taken every precaution, except one: we hired a sitter last month so we could work full-time from home. We had functioned without one for the first 3 months, but we found our son was struggling with the lack of attention. As it turns out, our sitter has now contracted COVID, and we think we have it, too. We all got tested yesterday, and we are waiting for our results. Our son was terrified to take the test, but he braved through it. While we will receive medical advice for our advancing symptoms, how can we best address with our son what is happening to us as we are getting sicker? If his test comes back positive, we aren't planning to tell him unless there is a need. What can we do to parent him well, and in the least traumatic way possible as he watches us get sicker? This is really a scary time. Thank you for your help, we really appreciate it.

Oh man, I am sorry about this. What a scary time.

We really don't know how Covid behaves in everyone, and so you may or may not have any symptoms. You will follow quarantine protocol, and yes, I would watch and wait.


If you google "Talking to kids about Covid," you will find resources, I would like you to look through them because only YOU know what your son needs to know (or not).

Whatever you do, stay HONEST. Kids need to see reality match your words and most of all, your energy of emotion.

Stay safe!

My rising 8th grade son is experiencing the whims and winds of friend group drama. He has his elementary friends and some new additions, but he tells me he often feels his group picks everyone but him to play together in video games, or they will tell him, "we're just going to play on our own" and exclude him. They social distance visit or rides bikes in person and things seem fine. My problem is that he asks me to listen and for advice, so I say things like, "this is how middle school is and allegiances shift constantly, it says more about them than you, can you talk to your friends about it, etc. " According to him these are all the wrong things to say.... Any thoughts on what would resonate? I guess I shouldn't say "a few of your friends have always liked to exclude others and play favorites, you are just now noticing....?" I welcome any ideas! thank you


Middle school.

Instead of finding something that resonates, I would suggest maybe just...listening.

So much of what is happening to your son is uncontrollable (from your side), and so there really isn't "one right thing" to say. And that's too much pressure to put on yourself.

Listening, while painful to the parent who wants to say the right thing, is a powerful parenting move. It says, "I am here, I am listening, how you feel matters." You are a safe place.

As you get more practiced at listening, you can begin to reflect his feelings back to him. "Sounds like you feel left out...that's hard." or "It is frustrating when kids do this..."

As you reflect his feelings back to him, you can ask him thoughtful questions like, "Why do you think kids do this?" You may not always get the answers you want, but your parenting job is to turn the wheels in your son's head.

Also, I love the sharing your own stories from middle school, how you made it through.

I also like Fagell's book "Middle School Matters" to give you some more ideas!

My 4 1/2 year old almost reader has been waking up early (pre-5am), and getting a bunch of books and looking at them in bed until his ok to wake clock turns on at 6:15. I don’t want to discourage reading whatsoever, but he’s exhausted and a wreck by 4pm each day. He’s asleep at 7 and we haven’t varied during the lock down. We’re both working from home, so he has plenty of time to read during the day (and as a teacher, my summer hours are short). What can we do to encourage sleep and not discourage reading? We have left it for now, and don’t want to punish him for reading. But he needs sleep!

The three things a parent cannot control: sleeping, eating, and toileting. Period.

If I could find a way to get kids to sleep longer, I would be a millionaire.

This is a tough age, because he may still a need, but has dropped it...making him a wreck every night.

Get him as tired as you can during the day (I know how hard this is during covid) and pray that his fatigue will take him later into the morning, but other than that, I think it is awesome that he looks at books in his bed! Don't discourage that!

This WILL pass. Just keep getting through the evening routine the best you can. Breathe in and breathe out.

My child is 6.5 years old and still picks his nose and...you know the rest. We’re concerned about this habit with Covid-19 and the possible return to school in a few months. We’ve ignored it for a while and now have become more vocal about getting him to stop but to no avail. We’ve talked about germs and reasons not to do this. Any advice how to wean this habit?

Ugh, you aren't going to stop all of this...it is hard. The best way to get kids to stop picking their nose, frankly, is being made fun of by their friends. 

There is nothing more powerful than shame and, while I hate it when kids feel ashamed, it is often how we humans learn what is appropriate in our culture and what isn't.

Without school and friendships to rein in this habit, you are left to your own devices to end it...

Do your best to bring attention to the behavior without shaming him as a person. So, don't name-call (obvs) or say, "you are being gross," instead get used to saying short phrases like, STOP. or NO. He is unconscious of it, probably, so just be short and to the point.

But trust me: a week in school (in the fall) will put a swift end to this habit! People will call him out and he will be embarrassed!

My husband and I have three children ages 7-11. My husband is very intelligent, and a basically good human with a strong work ethic and good moral code. However, we disagree about what I feel are a few very important parenting concepts. For example, I do not believe that shaming a child is an effective parenting technique. As long as my kids’ choices are not harming me or anyone else, I want my kids to make their own choices and have authority over themselves. This applies to anything from what clothes they wear to school to what they’re comfortable doing with their bodies (“You don’t want to change into your bathing suit in front of other people? Ok, just wear it to camp then!”) My husband believes that preventing our children from being made fun of by other kids is more important than their exercising autonomy. It drives me crazy and leads to fights and disagreements between us. My question is: what obligation do I have to “be on the same page” as my husband about this? I will never agree with him, and from our previous discussions, it seems that he will not agree with me. It’s honestly exhausting and fruitless to constantly discuss it, but going behind him and telling our children something different seems like undermining him, which I also don’t want to do. Help?

I am not totally sure I get this...

Your husband doesn't want kids to make fun of your children?

And you value autonomy, meaning, if your children exercise that and get made fun of...so be it?

Anyway, getting on the same page is hard parenting work and when parents say that they want to be on the same page, they usually mean that they want the other person to parent like them.

Your spouse's outlook, while maddening for you, is valuable in your children's lives (just like your outlook is, too).

Is there a way to agree to disagree with this? Sit down and really get curious about why each of you feel the way you do...the roots of our parenting lives are usually found in our families of origin, so sit with your spouse and get honest about why you are both so rigid around this. Is it an overreaction to your past? And under-reaction? Rather than battle each other, find the humanity in why your spouse feels the way he does (and vice versa).

My hope is that if you understand each other's values a little more, you find a way to meet in the middle.

Oh, and couple's therapy is great too.

Hi Meghan and Amy! I need some help. My three year old has always been attached to me and now, going into month 4 of quarantine, it has become untenable. I am an introvert by nature and am struggling with being home 24/7 with my husband and son on a good day, but on a bad day - wow - it's impossible. My son basically doesn't let me leave his sight and will have a full on, hysterical meltdown if I close myself off in a room for a few minutes. My husband is home right now too (we're both working full time) and wants to help but my son just doesn't respond to him when he's melting down, so what starts as whining quickly deteriorates into a full-fledged screaming and crying fit. I'll also add that we have been blessed with extremely unpleasant neighbors who alert us every time they are being disturbed by the noise that filters over into their side of our duplex. (We are house hunting.) How do I balance empathy for what I know is an extremely difficult situation for him with my need for a few feet of personal space?

You need help.

I know we are in quarantine, but you need to find a mother's helper or a nanny or nanny-share so that you can get a break.

I know this may feel scary, but please look at options.

And I am sorry that your neighbors cannot muster most empathy during this hard time...

While you find someone to help you, please work out a schedule with your spouse where he takes the child out of the house for a period of time every day (and you do the same). As much as you can, make it a routine so that your child knows what is coming.

This is really hard, because there WILL BE CRYING. We cannot sidestep it...

Drop a note and a gift card to a local restaurant to your neighbors thanking them for their patience, and just do the best you can to get help and create a routine where you or the kid gets out of the house.

Good luck.

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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