Families in Isolation Q&A – Welcoming Your Questions, Comments, Concerns

I’ve been at a loss trying to figure out how I can support parents and professionals during this difficult period in our lives. For parents of young children, feelings can run the gamut from minor discomforts and inconveniences to overwhelming fear and grief. Sometimes it can be the whole spectrum in a span of minutes. Caring for children is challenging enough without these additional stressors.
I have the honor of hearing from people every day through email, FB, Twitter, Instagram, and comments on my website. But I’ll admit that I get scattered. My organizationally-challenged brain, along with the volume of questions I receive through these various channels means that most are left unanswered. I hate that.

So I had the idea today to invite readers, browsers and listeners to reach out to me here in this quieter place, where I will attempt to prioritize replying to your comments — and in a timely manner. If I don’t have an answer for you, I’ll try to refer you to another person, a resource or a post of mine. I’ll be checking in regularly. It will help me if you can keep your questions to one or two paragraphs, because I’ll need to keep my responses brief as well.

I really hope this will be helpful! I’ll also be hosting some live Q&A sessions on Instagram and you can follow me THERE for updates. And I’m committed to continuing my podcasts for as long as I can.

Please take good care. Together, we can do this.

UPDATE: After reading through your wonderful questions so far (thank you for sharing them!), I thought it might be helpful to add these  relevant recent podcasts to this post. They provide detailed responses to many of the questions you’ve asked.

In this first one, family therapist Susan Stiffelman and I discuss explaining the pandemic to young children and also how to focus our energies at this time:

In this podcast with ECE icon Lisa Griffen-Murphy, we discuss home-learning through independent play! We encourage parents to release themselves of the burden to entertain and teach. Your kids can do this!

I hope these are helpful!

227 Comments

Please share your comments and questions. I read them all and respond to as many as time will allow.

  1. avatar Kathryn Meier says:

    Hi Janet,
    I have a three year old daughter who is typically very well behaved and very smart. Part of the issues we struggle with has to do with her intelligence she back talks quite a bit like example: refused to sit still at the table to eat and because of that often falls off. I constantly correct her and remind her I need you to be safe when sitting at the table or “you are not being safe at the table you must be ready to get up and are done eating” her responses range from screaming o and holding on to her plate so I can’t pick it up to “sorry I am just a little girl so I am just learning it’s hard to sit still” then two seconds later it’s the same. Sometimes she makes up stories that the “voices” told her to do things or one of her dolls told her she had to. Moreover the biggest issue is her constant torture hitting kicking pulling pushing etc of our two dogs. She also hits kicks and bites us frequently. It is not feasible for me to keep the dogs away from her all the time and when I see her do it I typically just remove the dog and say “I can’t let you hit the dog” often she burst into tears and screams until she get to then hug the dog, often apologizing but then does it again in a minute. When she does not listen which is not all the time but happens, It’s usually something like for example it’s time to wash hands after lunch, we always do this it’s a routine and she knows it. She sometimes runs off and begins to destroy the house while I’m trying to pick up the food I give her a minute or two reminder “we are going to wash hands in one minute” she ignores me. I give her a choice, would you like to go wash your own hands or would you like me to help you?” Ignored (while doing something she should t be usually. ) “ok looks like you are having some trouble I am going to help you. “ the moment I pick her up it is a full on tantrum hitting me trying to bite me screaming. I would have to hold her hands in water or forcefully while she fights me wipe them with a wipe or something. It will go on for 45 plus minutes. I have to carry her to a safe place where she can’t hurt herself because she is flailing and tantruming so bad attempting to hurt me or anything she gets near the most she can. I will have to sit with her or she will run through the house hitting and kicking things including the animals. Which means she continuously tried to hit and kick me. I have to hold her hands and legs so she can’t which is very traumatic for me because she is fighting it so hard there is literally no way to gently do this. I get she does these things when tired but this just prolongs being tired because these tantrums almost always happen in response to having to get ready for nap or bed. She takes hours to go to sleep at night laying up until midnight or longer . I can’t get her not tired because she refuses to sleep. I feel like all the things I should do do not work and me “helping” her do anything is a physical struggle which is very upsetting. I do not like to physically force her to do anything or struggle with her. The only alternative I see is to let her have her way. I don’t know what to do. Lastly, after the tantrum is over she says stuff to me like “I’m afraid of you because you yelled at me” I won’t have even yelled. I am very focused on remaining calm during the fit and even trying g to sooth when she lets me touch her. When I tell her I did not yell she will I sit I did and then tell me she is going to tell her dad and her will tell me I’m a bad mommy. This all seems so vicious and manipulative for a three year old. Both my husband and I are worried we are doing something very wrong or there is something wrong with our daughter

  2. Hi Janet!

    My daughter just turned one, and has started to express her frustration by screaming. I’m working very hard to hold her, try to sportscast her frustrations, and give her the time and space to express herself. The problem is that my husband is downstairs, working remotely; and it’s becoming more and more frequent that her screaming interrupts his phone conferences and meetings.
    I’m not sure what to do. I can distract her and take her upstairs, but now we’re in a far less baby proofed space, with more frequent “no”s.
    Do you have any suggestions?

  3. We have been talking to our almost 3 year old about why daycare is closed and we are not visiting others… basically to help everyone stay healthy while there is a strong virus, etc. Thanks in large part to your advice I feel comfortable with how we have been dealing with all the feelings- acknowledge, name, empathize but not pity, be responsive to questions, observe emotionally-driven play (e.g. I am building a staircase to Gram because I lost my Gram. *knocks it down* Now I can’t see Gram!” ) Lately I am wondering about window visits with grandparents, or even distanced visits in the yard as the weather gets nicer. We have only done video calls so far and our toddler comes and goes from the screen, playing and talking. I am wondering if there is a benefit for our child to adding window or yard visits, or if it is better to stick with the status quo. I want to help us be as connected as possible. Yet I’m concerned that the physical limits he’d have to follow with these just-out-of-reach visits would be too much, emotionally. Thoughts?

  4. Hi Janet

    I have a 7 years old. On his 3rd birthday, my husband found out that he’s positive to a Breast Cancer genetic test since he lost his mom, uncle and his first cousin on a same year. So we decided to stop making more babies until we can afford an adoption. My son doesn’t like to play on his own. He always wants my husband to play with him. We didn’t have any problem before pandemic and used to get involved in all different group playing with his friends. It’s been two months that we have been home and it’s really hard to keep him busy. He’s not focused on his school work. He’s tired of staying at home. Please I need help. He doesn’t want to do anything with me at home . All he wants to do is to watch TV or playing Minecraft which is pretty new to him. I let him to talk with his cousin on phone for long time while they play game. He doesn’t want to go on a walk or bike ride . It’s really really hard for me. I hate to see him doing nothing . He loves to build legos and I keep buying him more but I can see this doesn’t help . Once he’s done setting one, he’s walking around bored.

    Help plz !
    Thank you

  5. Dear Janet,

    With the start of lockdown my daughter (3) has had to remain home as her nursery school closed. We brought in my husband’s mum to care for her as both he and I are essential workers and could not work from home. Her grandmother does not live nearby and her interactions with my daughter are infrequent (maybe 4 or 5 times a year when we visit our hometown or if she comes to visit us) and never last longer that a week at the most. My daughter has been relatively fond of her grandmother pre-lockdown but I find with the continued isolation her behaviour towards my Mother-in-law has altered drastically. She no longer wants to remain with her alone in the house – for example, I cannot leave the house except for work and she insists either her dad or myself stay with her even if we need to go to the shops or run any errands. When prompted about why she doesn’t like to stay with her granny her responses are vague and range from “I don’t like her” to “She doesn’t do anything with me and I only have to play on my phone”. The intensity of her responses increases dramatically if either her dad or myself are at home with her. She barely acknowledges her grandmother and her attitude towards her has become very defiant and borders on disrespectful. I’ve tried engaging her to find out the root of the problem as well as reprimanded her for the way she speaks to her granny (which I feel bad to do because I feel there is definitely an underlying reason for her behaviour). I’m at my wits end and I really hope you can offer some advice on how to tackle this problem. I don’t know if it has anything to do with it but my mother in law has also made it clear she didn’t expect to remain with us for this long (it’s been over 2 months) and that she wants to go home. Perhaps my daughter picks up on her negativity and possible resentment at having to be away from home this long? I just don’t know. Looking forward to hearing from you.

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