On Parenting: Meghan Leahy took your questions

(by Katie Jett Walls)
Aug 05, 2020

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

Hi Meghan - thank you for hosting these chats! I always appreciate your advice. My son is starting kindergarten and our school system just released the proposed schedule for virtual learning in the fall. The day is scheduled from 9am to 3pm, some Zoom, some independent, two 15 minute breaks, and a longer break for lunch. Since mid-March, we have been at home with basically no schedule for our five year old. It is going to be a huge change for him to have to participate in school for such a large part of the day and I’m worried about the adjustment. Any advice for how to best make the transition and what to do if he refuses to participate in school? (For the record, I think this schedule is nuts for kindergarten.)

I am glad you think that the schedule is overboard for a K student....bc it is.

I would begin at the school level and reach out with what you think your children can handle. Don't be afraid to acknowledge that you know that they are doing the best they can, and your son will not able to maintain that kind of schedule.

In the meanwhile, decide for your family, what your schedule can look like everyday.

It may be one hour or two hours with frequent breaks...but you can decide what will work best.

As much as you can, begin a little schedule before school starts. Any effort is worth it...and please leave lots and lots of space for mistakes.

Hi Meghan, I was hoping to get any advice on how to choose a new daycare for my two-year-old when we move. When I was pregnant and looking, I was largely looking at price, commute, and where I could get a spot on a waitlist. Now I'm not sure how to weigh different factors but I have narrowed it down to two choices. Choice A is the daycare at the synagogue we belong to. I know people who have used it and liked it. It seems like a "typical" daycare philosophy that values playtime and tries to get the kids outside twice a day. Choice B is a Waldorf preschool. I am going to an info session next week, but from what I see, the default is that students spend the day outside, little to no technology, and an emphasis on modeling independence. I think in "normal" times, I would be quite happy with Choice A. But during a pandemic where my kiddo has been cooped up and had more TV time than I would like, I am very intrigued by Choice B. FWIW, Choice A is less expensive but Choice B is closer to our new house, but neither are wildly different in either regard. It seems like both have teachers that have been there for a long time. Do you have any suggestions on what I should be looking for at the info session at Choice B? And is there anything I'm missing when thinking about which to choose? Thank you!

Look for loving adults and lots of play. Period.

If both daycares have those, pick the one that resonates in your gut as better...and is the most convenient for you. Convenience may be money or it may be location, but don't be afraid to do what works for you.

My "boyfriend" is going to propose soon - I use quotes because we already have a date set, and venue chosen/reserved - he's proposing later because he wants my son to be in on it and part of the proposal and this year has been NUTS for us so it got postponed. What advice do you have for us in blending families? I have one child, he has none, we don't live together full time yet, but he's completely 100% invested in my child's well being and shares the parenting load completely. What kind of growing pains should we be prepared for as we transition? My son is 11 if that helps. We are also planning to start trying for a second child right after the wedding (I'm not getting younger and its important to us). Advice for that? My son's father is very involved in his life, although he's long distance, and he's not happy about the changes which has added to my son's complex feelings. Suggestions? We're doing therapy, but looking here for some practical advice.

Congrats!

Blending families is something that goes on and on, so look at it as a relationship continues rather than one event.

Here's the deal: you always have to remember that your son already has a dad (even if he is far away), and your new husband needs to allow you to call the shots. Yes, the new husband will absolutely be supporting you in making decisions, but the discipline should largely be left up to you. As your son and his father in law's relationship grows, they will find their own way to communicate and co-habitate.

Please be sure to always leave one-on-one time with your son, every week, so that he can express to you how things are going. Sweeten the pot with a treat or something fun...like playing video games with him, etc. anything he likes to do!

Good luck.

Hi Meghan - We've been quarantining pretty strictly since March due to a health issue that makes me especially vulnerable to COVID. My 2yo (26m) daughter loved being home with us for the first few months, but I'm starting to worry about her lack of interaction with other kids (she's an only child). She was very engaged with her daycare friends before, but now just stares at other children on the playground. There's a good chance that she will be home with us until almost age 3. Would you be concerned about the impact of isolation from peers at this age/duration? We don't have anyone to pod with, but would be open to some increased risk/finding a family in a similar situation if it's important.

Ugh, I am so sorry. Children don't need as much socializing as we think they do, but the fun they have together bumping into each other in the playground, stealing and taking back toys, and using their imaginations to "pretend" is important.

I would find another family to play with, and take as many precautions as you can! Even a little bit of play time will be good for everyone!

I'm starting to see the emotional toll of isolation on my five year old son who has become anxious about being left alone. The other day I got up and walked into the kitchen for a drink of water and he chased after me yelling, "Dad, I always need to be able to see you!" We're spending lots of time together, and I do my best to assure him that I'm here and not going anywhere, but I don't know what else to do. He hasn't played with other kids since March and has little interest in seeing friends online. I don't want to overstate it - he's still mostly pretty happy - but my heart is breaking for the little guy. Any ideas?

We are reaching a terrible place in America. You know we need to stay safe, but the isolation is taking a toll on our children (and us).

I would find some families you trust and try to get the children together (OUTSIDE). I know that you are taking some chances, and only you can decide what is safest for your family, but another five months of isolation is simply not healthy for your son.

 

My 2 1/2 yr old sleeps in our bed. He moves around so much at night that it wakes my husband so husband is now sleeping in the guest room. I like having my kid near but its becoming clear that we all would likely rest better if he slept on his own bed. I'm not sure how to start this process. He's very attached to me as we spend all day together while I telework and stay home with him. I'm the one that does his bedtime routine. So I was thinking of moving his bed into our master bedroom at first just to get him used to not being in my bed. Or do I start off co-sleeping in his room? What do you suggest?

I would put a little mattress or sleeping bag on the floor of your room and begin moving him there. I would not recommend sleeping in his room as he is really becoming the king of the house at that point!

Any advice on getting my teens to get along during the virtual school day? I am going back to work. My husband will be there, but we would like them to function independently during the school day.

I would like them to function independently during the school day, too, but you have to ask yourself if that is possible for your children.

Just because teens look and act older doesn't mean that they don't need help focusing. And since their phones and social media are always ready to distract, they may need more check-in's then you think.

I would create some routines with them that definitely include frequent check-in's, movement breaks, and snacks.

Don't wait until you see problem; go ahead and assume that every teen needs a level of support as they spend hours in front of a screen.

 

Any advice on introducing daily chores to kids now (during quarrantine/pandemic)? Mine are 6 and 10, and in the past have been helpful if I ask them to do things. What with everyone being home more and them having more time it seems a good time to get them to pitch in more regularly and without specific requests. I'm also mindful it's a stressful time and am not sure suddenly saying hey do this stuff will go over the greatest. Ideas?

The quarantine is a disaster on every level, but it has gifted us with time...and that time can be spend learning household chores that are truly helpful.

In the past, I would have not recommended paying children for chores, but I think in this time where children are not able to much, a little cash incentive could be exciting and energizing for some kiddos.

I would recommend making a list of "everyone does" chores (and then rotate them) and then a set of chores that they can earn real money!  You can create both of these lists as a cooperative family and remember this: a lot of chores need time and instruction. Look at them as internships rather than professionally done jobs! 

My 3 yr old has basically only one interest - cars and trucks. She basically will not read a book that does not have a vehicle in it. Her only imagination games involve pretending objects are, say, a forklift or a Tesla. This started pre pandemic and shows no sign of going away now that she is back in preschool. I know it's totally normal for toddlers to have strong interests like this but should I be trying to encourage other interests at all? (More than I do already). I see other kids her age playing complex pretend games and having a greater variety of hobbies and I want to make sure she is not missing out.

It is typical for some 3 yo's to become hyper-focused on certain groups of things, but if you have a worry about this, please have a talk with your pediatrician. And come to the doctor with data, i.e. how many hours spent, what else the child does, what is the tantrum level when you try to move her along. The more data you have, the better the conversation.

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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