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!

245 Comments

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

  1. Hi Janet!
    Our family is day 26 at our states stay at home orders. My daughter who just turned 5 is really struggling with video chats. She misses her friends and school and cries daily over the loss of her independence and social life that school brought to her. Her music class did a zoom meeting and it upset her terribly.
    I’m struggling with how to help her feel connected to her community without the use of video chats. We are trying letter writing and drive by waving but she keeps insisting she misses the closeness and play she shared with her friends.
    Any ideas of how to navigate this. We have another 28 to go.
    Appreciate your insights. They always seem to help our family.
    Much love,
    Elizabeth

    1. Love back to you! The best way to navigate this is to trust that it’s really okay and even positive for her to express these feelings. The grieving we all feel is real and there’s no getting around it. Unfortunately, she IS going to feel disconnected, as we all do. It will not harm her to have those feelings. Her development will not be thwarted in any way. In fact, this is a period in which children will gain a great deal of social-emotional intelligence. Sorry, I wish I had a magic wand for all of us to make this better.

    2. My grandson, who is 7, doesn’t like Zoom chats or school meetings either. It’s just so foreign to their reality. But maybe trying a little bit each day, with someone she loves, like a grandma, to get her acclimated a bit moe to the platform?
      Yes, to just letting all those feelings be present. Of course she misses her friends! My only suggestion is just doubling down on the love, and snuggles, and books. Maybe giving them more outside time (long walks maybe with a treat halfway?) and free-form art expression opportunities. A dear friend, who is one of the smartest people I know, isn’t taking this at all well, either, and I had to think, when we were chatting today on the phone ‘What would Janet Lansbury say?’ 😉

      1. Aww, thank you, Kathy! I love your suggestions!

  2. Thanks for doing this. I’m concerned, as I assume most parents are, about the lack of socialization. My daughter is young (2.5), and I know play is the priority. But I also know there is so much to be learned by figuring out her place in the social world at this age. Just curious how to foster those skills.

    1. My pleasure, Chelsea. Yours is a question I have heard often and I hope to put your mind at ease. Child-directed play is a priority, always, but peer play is not necessary for social development. Truly! Most of early social development happens between children and their parents. Magda Gerber used to say that, yes, children do learn from each other and offering them the opportunity to play with one or a group of peers once a week or so is great. But it’s really not necessary. There seems to be so much pressure on parents these days to socialize children outside the home – go to play groups, enrichment classes, etc. It is NOT what children need. So please take the pressure off of yourself. Yes, for us it might be very hard to stay at home and be away from our friends. For young children, this quieter time can be a godsend.

    2. hI! Thanks so much for this!
      What is the best way to respond to a 4.5 year old
      who is hitting her 2.5 year old sister when sister doesn’t play pretend games the exact way she wants her to and I wasn’t there to block the hit. She also hits her when sister takes a toy or object and she doesn’t want her to have it.
      Also, what is the best way to respond when she grabs things from sister? I generally say let me help you give it back to her. And i help her ask if she can have it when the other is done w her turn (I let them choose when their turn ends)

  3. Hi Janet! Every day before dinner our daughter becomes sooo ornery, throws temper tantrums, hits, throws things, and everything I do is wrong (to her). I’m worried that as we get more stressed at home, my fuse will get shorter. Any advice on how to manage this stressful time of the day would be great! Thank you!!

    1. Hi Maggie! I’m wondering if dinner is a little on the late side for her. Or she may be too tired? Sounds like she is dysregulated and unable to function well. It tends to be a rough time of day for all of us, but maybe there are some changes you can make to help with this? If not, it may just be her fall-apart time, and I would let go of trying to make that better and just let her feelings be, keeping her as safe as possible. Also, how old is she?

    2. We’ve been combing your archives for dealing with “aggressive” behavior and it’s been helpful so far. Our 4.5 year old is increasingly more aggressive (hit, kick, push, punch, yells, grabs, etc) with our 2 year. We are really struggling to keep our cool with him and feel like we’ve tried a host of things – alone time, separate activities, helping to share, giving him his own time with one of us , validating his feelings that “yes, it hard and it’s not always easy”, and we’ve even got upset with him. But nothing seems to work. Can you point us in any sort of direction?

      1. Hi Hilary – Why do you imagine he feels this way?

    3. Hi Janet, thanks so much for doing this. I have a 4.5 and a 2 year old. I would love some advice on accepting feelings and having boundaries. My 4.5 year old is very clingy and always has to have someone with him. I understand that this is about setting a boundary but in my experience he will just get so so upset and it doesn’t end.

      The second question is that as siblings they now get on way better than they did! But of course it has its downsides. My son (4.5) always has to be first and will shout “nah nah nah nah nah” all day. We have been just brushing this off but it’s obviously testing for us in this environment and does it endorse this kind of behaviour to both my children? Thanks!

      1. Hi Gemma!

        1) Do you feel confident setting boundaries? Can you detail how this goes for you? This may be helpful: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2020/02/what-to-do-about-your-clingy-child/

        Also, this one is about a child closer to your child’s age: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2017/12/clingy-child-wont-let-us-leave/

        2) It’s helpful to consider “why” and those behaviors usually stem from insecure feelings. Could be leftover feelings stemming from the birth of his sibling. Here’s a podcast with more about that: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2019/03/how-to-handle-boastful-competitive-behavior/

        Here’s an excerpt from the transcript:

        “Then there are other reasons that children might have a need to feel like they’re winning, because they feel like they are maybe losing in other ways. That can be a child with a younger sibling who feels they’ve lost the focus that used to be on them, and maybe some of their parents’ love and attention. This can be exacerbated by the normal thing that we do as parents, which is scold the other child for their behavior, if they are aggressive with their sibling or possessive. In these situations, it’s often the younger one is the good guy or the good girl, and the other one is blamed, because we naturally expect more of the older child. But the older child is actually the one who’s had to make a huge life change. A very uncomfortable, scary life change. I don’t know if that’s going on in this case, but that’s a common reason that children will try to make themselves feel better. Compensate by focusing on needing to win, and pat themselves on the back, and be “the best.””

        1. Thanks so much Janet. I have felt confident setting these boundaries but it always resulted in such huge emotions that I felt a bit cruel. I think, for me, I am still unsure how and when to step in – we try to have quality time each day but very often he then doesn’t leave me or my husband alone. I know this is normal but it has been going on so long!

          1. Can you share more about this, Gemma? I sense this is the key: “such huge emotions that I felt a bit cruel.” What do you fear when he expresses these feelings? How is it cruel to upset him over reasonable boundaries?

  4. Hi Janet! Thank you for opening up this forum to address isolation issues that might be popping up. We have a preschool girl, just turned 4, who is an only-child and has been craving interaction with her friends and teachers. However, she shies away from video chats, often not wanting to engage. So I have two questions: how can I help her engage in our current form of communication with friends and family, and also encourage her independent and creative time? She’s been very clingy and reluctant to play on her own, as well. Thank you for your wisdom! Jillian

    1. Hi Jillian! Have you read or listened to my advice for encouraging independent play? Here’s one of many: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2018/08/its-really-okay-to-say-no-to-playing-with-your-child-5-reasons/

      Often this is about us struggling with guilt or otherwise having difficulty saying “no” to playing with and entertaining.

      In regard to her craving interaction… I would ask her how she would like to do that. She might have some good ideas! I wouldn’t make it your task to coax her to video-chat, etc. It’s also not only okay but very positive for her to feel frustrated about this.

  5. I’ve often heard the analogy – you have to put on your oxygen mask first before putting on someone else’s. I’ve been told this in my professional career (as a school counselor) and as a parent. In the current quarantine situation, my husband is working around the clock fulfilling the extraordinarily intense demands of his job and I am juggling caring for our two children (3-year old and 7-month old) with working from home. I fear our 3-year old son has become angry, unmotivated and disconnected from friends and family (by choice — he has decided he resents FaceTime, zoom and the telephone). He is such an extroverted kid that this has really been so difficult for him. Now he’s lost his momentum and the sparkle in his eye.

    I am so worn out, stressed, anxious and depressed; I don’t even know where to find my oxygen mask anymore. Please help!

    1. I’m sorry to hear this, Beth! For me the key is letting go and letting the feelings be. When I read: “… he resents FaceTime, zoom and the telephone, ” I feel like THAT’s exactly where he’s expressing his grief and dismay about these losses we are all experiencing. I know it’s hard to believe this…but it is SO positive for children to be able to vent these feelings! It’s not our job to make it better. In fact, it doesn’t help children at all for us to make it better when they need (and have a right) to feel what they feel. If you can accept and normalize and even welcome him to resent FT, Zoom and everything else, you will be free to care for yourself. It’s when we try to hold ourselves up to creating some kind of “happiness standard,” that we get more anxious and depressed. We can’t control other people’s feelings and it isn’t our place to. Have you read this?https://www.janetlansbury.com/2014/06/a-mental-health-mantra-for-parents-and-kids/

  6. Hi Janet, this is such a lovely idea, thank you. My question feels broad because I am grasping—but my only child is three and doing well, it seems, home with us and a happy boy. But we are in a hard place, both working from home full time from 7am-10pm to keep our jobs and although we do our best I wonder how much of our energy he’s absorbing. He seems fine? I also have guilt about screens. There’s just no one to watch him when my husband and I both have to be in meetings. I wonder generally what sort of resilience you’ve seen in kids, or if you have a solid understanding of what we can do in the long run to recover from a lonely, screen filled time. We laugh a lot with him, we get outdoors, and his schedule is v consistent. But I worry.

    1. Hi Sarah – That sounds challenging for you but it seems you’re handling it well and he’s doing okay. One wonderful thing about young children is that they let us know! Not directly, but through their behavior.

      Children are very adaptable and can make changes at any time. So, if you decide you want to cut back or eliminate the screen time at some point, you always can. As with any change, we need to have conviction and then welcome any feelings of disagreement our child shares. If you get to that point later, I have posts to support you.

  7. My daughter is 2 years 8 months. Since the quarantine started, she’s been increasingly following me around & relying on me to entertain her. Even if she starts to do something on her own, the moment she sees me, she demands I join her. I stay firm on telling her no, I can’t, when I’m unable to, or simply want a moment to myself. But she cries & nags incessantly. What is the best way to encourage independent play?

  8. Hi Janet!

    Thanks for all you do and being such an inspiration to be a better parent. My 20 month old is going through a (long) phase of screaming at the top of her lungs in a very blood curdling way. She does this immediately when we tell her no, or when we do something she doesn’t want to do (For example diaper changes, or going inside when she’s having fun playing outside). No matter how gently I approach her, or what mood she’s in, she will scream and writhe in the moments. This habit has gotten significantly worse since we’ve been socially distancing at home.
    Do you have any tips how I can lessen this habit?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Ellen! Screaming is (unfortunately) one of those behaviors that goes away faster when we don’t try to limit it. I would think of this as very effective venting. Magda Gerber used to say, “Now she won’t need to go to Primal Scream Therapy when she’s older!” So the challenge is to trust the screams and have a bring-them-on attitude, rather than trying to change them and risk giving them a lot of power. Anyway, it’s not inappropriate to scream when something doesn’t go your way. (I sometimes feel like doing this!) Here’s a post that you might not have read:https://www.janetlansbury.com/2011/10/when-toddlers-scream/

    2. Hi Janet!
      I am *beyond* grateful to you for all you do. I have a v spirited 3yo and a 1yo. Being a big brother been a very very hard adjusted for my older from the get go; I’ve been listening to all your sibling podcasts on repeat, which has helped my approach immensely. However, he is still almost non-stop aggressive toward the baby. I calmly block but am not able to catch every time. The current situation has increased both of their clinginess with me and I’m having a hard time creating any personal space boundaries for myself while keeping them safe. If I need to go to the bathroom, both kids lose it and I can’t really just leave them, even though I do trust they can individually handle these feelings, because violence will ensue between them. We tried a separate gated play space for my daughter but my son quickly learned how to vault himself into it. Your work has helped me so much to see both of my kids perspectives and really empathize and respond confidently and lovingly and yet I’m just so exhausted from the relentlessness and unsure how to proceed.
      With gratitude,
      -Frances

      1. Thanks, Frances! Can you describe how you are responding to your son’s behavior? And can you also describe how you are setting personal boundaries? How do you respond to the clingy feelings?

        1. Yes, absolutely! I do my best to sportscast non-judgmentally when it is in the realm of toy taking and then gently and firmly physically prevent things from getting rough. I aim to be open, accepting, and encouraging of my son’s (and my daughter’s) feelings during this. I do my best to say just what I know for sure during the sportscasting and acknowledging. I related so much to your recent podcast on helping a strong-willed child. My son gets tipped into power struggles so easily, so even with blocking hits, he can become all the more determined to hit her and generally has huge emotional releases many times a day when I stop him. When he does hurt her, mostly I am able to respond calmly (Oh wow, I saw that; I can’t let you do that again; I’m here to help) but sometimes—by the end of the day or if I just haven’t given myself the mental pause I need before responding—I do yell or get too stern. I try to regain balance, apologize for yelling, and hold the boundary from a more centered space.

          For personal boundaries, I say things like, “Ooh yes, you really are asking me to pick you up right now. I am making lunch; I’ll be able to pick you up in a few moments” (though the baby will often get tackled by my son if she is crying for me to pick her up) or “I am nursing Esme right now and I don’t want you climbing on me; I’m going to pull you off my back. I’ll be able to play with you when I’m done.” (Again, this can incite a power struggle of determination to climb on me more. )

          Going to the bathroom, honestly, they both just come with me (into our TINY bathroom, haha) because it isn’t safe otherwise. I could go on and on with more details and examples, but will stop there to respect your time!

          1. Your responses sound good to me, Frances. In your mind… why do you think his behavior persists? Is there more he’s trying to express to you?

            Regarding the clinginess… If there really isn’t a way to keep them safe without your supervision, I would, at most, only take one of them with you to the bathroom at a time. Maybe take turns. What this will do is help him express more of the feelings driving his behavior. You can’t allow your children to be holding you captive. That isn’t good for them and is sure to lead to you losing patience.

  9. avatar Kelly Mairs says:

    My almost three year old is desperate to play with kids her own age. She misses her friends and preschool terribly. My husband and I take time to play with her every day, and we often FaceTime family and friends. Any advice to help her through this? Thank you!

    1. Hi Kelly – As I said to someone else, above, it needs to be okay to feel these losses. And to make it okay, we might need to let go of our own discomfort with our child’s feelings and not make it our responsibility to fix this situation for her. Her feelings are appropriate and need to be expressed fully. So I advise breathing and letting the feelings be. Even encouraging her to share how much she misses her friends. Out of those feelings, once she has expressed them, she may have ideas how she wants to try to connect with friends through notes, visits through a window, etc. But there may not be an answer. This is how we all feel, right? It really is safe for children to feel their feelings.

      1. avatar Gary Kosman says:

        The music teacher at my 3 year old’s preschool put together a video of various songs, two of which are about missing school. On the day we received the video, my kiddo listened to it four in a row times while playing on her own. Afterwards, she started talking about how much she was missing school. If you’re looking for some music inspiration that might help your kiddo process their missing feelings, check out https://youtu.be/jhWZbHIB7bE.

  10. My 4.5 year old daughter attended preschool two full days a week prior to this period of isolation. The first part of the school year went well, some tears at drop off at the beginning but then, things got better. In late January, she began getting very upset about going to school. When it was time to gather her lunch and bag, she would get sad and begin crying. She would say things like, “I am nervous going to school”, “I want to stay home with you and J ( 2.5 year old sister)”, “don’t do anything fun without me”, ” I just miss Mom” and even starting focusing on a little boy at school constantly worrying about “not wanting to see this boy.” Not wanting to see this boy became an obsession and was often her first reason for not wanting to go to school. I always tried to acknowledge her feelings, make them ok, and agree that it can feel sad to have mom leave. I would still reinforce that school is the best place for her to be to grow and learn and that we were still going to school. Her teacher was very kind and receptive too. Once we would arrive at school, she would start crying, sometimes really intensely, that she didn’t want to stay. I would attempt to make my departure relatively quick with a hug, kiss, and I love you. Her teacher shared that most days, it didn’t take long for her to turn things around and she would be fine. But, rather than drop-off getting better, I feel like for the month of Feb. and into March, it was getting worse. I am looking for some guidance as to how to make school drop-off more positive for my daughter whenever we return to school after this time of isolation. She has been incredibly happy being at home and has said before how happy she is that she doesn’t have to go to school. I have a feeling that we will have a really hard time with returning to school and a return of this separation anxiety ( or whatever it is that she is experiencing. I try to not put a label on it). If you could, please share some strategies to use when preparing her to return to school again, to use when we do begin school again, and perhaps some suggestions to share with her teacher as well. Thank you so much again, Janet.

    1. Hi Sarah – Here are the parts I zeroed in on:

      1) “Her teacher shared that most days, it didn’t take long for her to turn things around and she would be fine.” <<<<<< 2) "But, rather than drop-off getting better, I feel like for the month of Feb. and into March, it was getting worse. " Do. you have a sense as to why? 3) "I am looking for some guidance as to how to make school drop-off more positive for my daughter whenever we return to school after this time of isolation. " I understand that wish, Sarah, but she may need to be a girl that has messy goodbyes. These are the kinds of feelings that actually get better when WE get comfortable leaning into them. And not changing them. If these goodbyes make you feel guilty in some way, she's going to pick up on your uncertainty. So maybe perceive your daughter as a romantic girl who has emotional goodbyes with those she loves. 🙂 Perceive this positively and it will pass sooner.

  11. Hello! My name is Kalene, I have an almost 11 month old baby boy named Draco! I only recently found your book elevating childcare and I was HOOKED on this style of parenting since.

    I’m here because Draco has been throwing a little tantrum when I tell him he can’t have something dangerous to him or when I can’t pick him up right away. He’ll arch his back, lay in the floor and scream and sometimes he’ll hit me. I honestly didn’t even know a baby this you g could throw a tantrum like that.. I feel like I’m failing him because no matter how I say no and tell him why he can’t have it he won’t look in my eyes and actually “hear” me talking to him. Is there anything else I can do?? I would so appreciate any help you can give me.

    1. Thank you, Kalene! Wow, you’ve got a live one on your hands! 🙂 That isn’t abnormal. He’s expressing his displeasure and starting to realize that he has “wants” that don’t always match with yours and he doesn’t control certain things in his world. It’s okay! It’s positive for him to share these (and any) feelings he has, even in this intense way. So I would acknowledge in an encouraging tone: “You don’t LIKE that I said no. You really wanted that!” Not feeling sorry for him, but encouraging him to share these strong feelings. Here are a couple of podcasts that might help to demonstrate:
      https://www.janetlansbury.com/2017/04/explosive-reactions-to-minor-events/

      https://www.janetlansbury.com/2017/02/handling-my-toddlers-first-tantrum/

  12. I have an energetic (almost) 5 year old son and a spunky 2 year old daughter. I really love your perspective and feel like you’ve taught me to be a better parent and person, so thank you in advance. I have patience I never knew existed! However, it can be difficult at times when I have to get my work done as well as care for my kids. How do you distinguish between being permissive and behaviour that needs to be stopped? For instance, we have boundaries in our house that I feel like are getting tested and I find myself raising my voice more than I’d like to get my son to stop – it could be expressing anger at his sister by pinching her, whipping couch cushions or just generally doing something we wouldn’t allow. I don’t “punish”, I explain why it’s wrong and if he’s upset, assure him I’m here and I’m ready whenever he’s ready to talk about why it was wrong. Some people say I’m too easy on him, but is that that true? Lately I feel more short tempered and yell, and I’ve tried to explain that it’s hard to be patient when he’s doing something he knows is wrong – is that the right message to send? I feel so inconsistent lately! Thank you in advance.

    1. Thank you, Sarah! Hmm… I can’t really visualize from this what you may or may not be doing to establish boundaries. If people say you are “too easy on him” and you like the approach these people have, then I would tend to think they may be right. But again, I can’t unpack this in this forum. I’m so sorry. If you are raising your voice and losing your temper, you are probably not setting boundaries clearly or early enough. I’ll also say that it is quite normal for siblings to bicker, wind each other up and lash out physically.

  13. My 3.5 yo son is constantly pushing and pulling on my 1.5 yo daughter. Most of my day is spent telling and showing them how to be gentle and safe with each other. I’ve tried to let them sort it out themselves, I’ve tried to keep situations playful, I’ve tried to be observant and say things like “She took your toy and you didn’t want her to. Can we try to take turns with it?” Everything I’ve tried seems to not really have any affect on them. I know it’s natural for their to be conflict, especially during this hard time but is there anything I can do to help them be kinder to each other?

    1. Hi Colette – This stuck out for me: “Most of my day is spent telling and showing them how to be gentle and safe with each other.” One thing I’m pretty sure of… he knows very well how to be gentle and safe with his sibling. So it’s not about what he knows, but what he is capable of in those moments. He’s having difficulty stopping himself from acting out of impulse, which is very common for children this age. So he needs less repeated instruction and more nonjudgmental physical help stopping. Also, he ideally needs to express those feelings to you that he’s acting out with his sibling. For instance, if he can scream about how mad he is and his parents accept him and empathize, then he doesn’t feel such an impulse to act it out by hitting.

      You’ll find a lot of more specific advice in my “Siblings” topic section: https://www.janetlansbury.com/tag/siblings/

      1. Hi! I’m a big fan of your podcasts, thank you! Isolation has been highlighting all our struggles and it’s hard!! My 9 year old son (who has a twin sister as a constant companion) can’t stand his 6 year old brother and it really pains me. He tries to avoid sitting near him and doing anything with him. I validate his feelings but don’t allow him to say or do anything hurtful to his brother. I know I can’t change the way he feels, but is there any way I can try to improve the relationship? Thank you.

        1. Hi Lily- I realize this is so challenging but I would stay out of their exchanges as much as possible. We can’t control our children’s feelings towards each other, but our interventions (except in the case of physical harm) risk making matters worse. The perceived “aggressor” feels judged and, therefore, tends to resent his sibling more. The perceived “victim” feels less capable, because the parent is essentially validating that they need to be rescued or stood up for. Here’s a post about younger children, but the same ideas apply: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2015/09/from-resentment-to-friendship-how-our-kids-can-learn-to-love-a-new-sibling/

          Mostly I would want to understand the “why.” Why does my son feel this animosity? It almost always stems from fear and sadness.

  14. avatar Alina Kalontarov says:

    Hi Janet!

    I have two 4.5 year old twins who are for the most part ignorant of the the reality of Covid, as we do not discuss the virus around them and our TV/news are off when they are awake. To contextual our the changes in their lives however, we told them that there’s a big germ going around town and that we are taking a little staycation from school and being germ busters to try to stay healthy and keep our loved ones healthy by not visiting their houses. They are starting to notice how frequently we wash hands, disinfect everything, they see people outside with masks, etc. I’m worried that this is their normal now and that it will create a couple of germaphobes in the future. What is the likelihood that this is going to make a major impact on them developmentally at their age? I worry that they might develop some kind of OCD around hand washing or the like…are these fears unfounded?

    Thank you for all your insight and wisdom, as always.

    1. avatar Alina Kalontarov says:

      Contextualize* the changes.

    2. I have this concern as well. We are in NYC with no outside space to play, so sometimes we will go for a walk on a quieter street, but it’s so hard because my 4.5 wants to touch and explore everything, but he can’t right now. Having to say “don’t touch anything” or “don’t touch your face”, “wash your hands as soon as you come inside”…

      I just don’t see how we are going to get through this without scarring them. I worry about giving him ocd or agoraphobia.

    3. Hi Janet. RIE has been so wonderful for my family and your site has been an amazing resource that was share with all our parent friends. Thank you for all you do! My husband and I are working from home right now due to COVID and my 3.5 year old son is also home with our nanny (He is normally at a wonderful full time program away from
      Home during the week). He is really struggling knowing me and my husband are home, but he can’t spend time
      With us anytime he feels like it. He often comes into the office wanting to see us and gets very angry (screaming and whining) when we bring him back downstairs to be with the nanny and his little brother (almost
      1.5). She has a hard time physically stopping him every time from coming to see us since she is also with his brother. We always acknowledge his feelings and talk about how hard this for him to know we are home but he can’t see us. We try to take breaks and spend time with him during the day when we can as well, but it never seems To fill him up. Any advice? Thanks!

      1. Hi Aften — I would develop a routine for your day with specific times that you take your breaks to be with him. At those times I would be 100% attentive, not distracted, no phones, etc. It’s okay if these are brief periods, but it will help if he can know what to expect day-to-day.

        Beyond that, I would not see your role as trying to fill him up. Instead I would see it as holding space for him to feel whatever he feels. And I would ask your nanny to do the same. He has a right and a need to express his displeasure with this new normal. It’s really healthy and okay for him to do that.

    4. Hi Alina – This is a new situation for all of us, so we can’t know for sure what all the ramifications will be, but I believe in the resilience of children. I appreciate this message and video that Tina Payne Bryson, PhD, recently shared:

      “We have tremendous power in shaping the meaning (or the sense-making) that our children have when it comes to the messages they’re receiving about what’s happening right now. In this video, I talk about how the brain is an association machine and that by focusing on safety-based messaging, we can ensure that our children have repeated experiences of understanding that their parent keeps them safe (rather than the message that the world is a dangerous and threatening place). Click below to hear more:”
      https://vimeo.com/402467778

  15. Hi Janet,
    I’m an avid follower of yours, and looking forward to this podcast.
    My question is, what are the long term implications of this self isolation on an only child? My daughter is 3.5 years old, and I worry about her not playing with any other children. It’s been three weeks, and if we expect at least another month of her not being able to play with kids. My husband and I try to fill the void by playing with her, but it’s not the same! I get the sense she’s bored of us sometimes. Anything we can do to ensure her emotional growth during this time?
    Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Nadine!

      I’ve shared with others here that peer play is not a vital need. It’s really okay to be “bored” and not have playmates! This can be an opportunity for children to go deeper into their self-directed play, develop their relationship with “self.” They will also learn a great deal from us and how we handle this crisis period. I’m guessing that there will be a surge in emotional growth for children at this time. The main thing they need is for us to be as okay as possible and also authentic about our feelings.

      There is much to worry about, but I would take this concern about peer play off of your plate.

  16. Hi! Thank you for offering support. My question isn’t specific to isolation, but has seemed to be a bigger deal as we’re home all the time. My son is 15 months old, and my daughter is 3 months old. I’m struggling to create a yes space for my daughter where she’s safe from the busy, rough but well-intentioned hands of my toddler. I have used a reclining high chair, and she’s happy there, but I don’t want her stuck there all the time. I’ve pulled her mini crib into the living room for awake time, which worked well until my son figured out how to climb into it from the couch (our home is very small; we’re currently trying to figure out an arrangement for our furniture where he won’t have anything to climb onto to get into the crib) My question is, is it reasonable to expect to teach him not to climb into her crib? I feel like we just manipulate the environment to avoid problems but haven’t really taught him any boundaries.. is that still age-appropriate?

    1. Hi Julie – I recommend the crib or small playpen. The chair prevents free movement and hinders motor development. I would concentrate on this: “…we’re currently trying to figure out an arrangement for our furniture where he won’t have anything to climb onto to get into the crib)”

      I would also let him know nonchalantly (so as not to give the behavior power) that you can’t let him get into the crib. But as a curious explorer doing his job he will need the physical boundary as back up.

  17. Janet. My 2.5 year old daughter is what I would describe as spirited and high energy. Go go go, emotional, and I have listened to so many of your podcasts lately with great parenting tips; and her aggressive tendencies are much improved. I have a 7 week old son and we started isolation when he was 1 month old. Since isolation started, our daughter has adjusted to having both parents home, new brother, no school (which she loves and thrives in and never has the behaviours there like at home) and she has also adjusted to her dad (preferred parent) working at home although unable to give her much attention.
    My difficulty is she is struggling with independent play. She prefers social games; hide and seek, pretend play and wants us involved literally at all times. She is so sweet with her new brother and and I think adjusted well but I find her often mopping around the house and not wanting to engage in the activities I suggest or set up. She now has regressed to sleeping in her crib instead of her big girl bed. Should I just meet her where she is right now, continue to empathize and enjoy more screen time if needed? I’m worried I’m not harnessing her potential or helping her thrive or learn or grow in this time, but maybe the goal should be more survival? My husband and I both feel a bit lost in parenting my daughter through this.
    I so appreciate your insight

    1. Hi Katrina – Firstly , this stuck out for me: “She now has regressed to sleeping in her crib instead of her big girl bed.” I would not see that as regression! She is very young for a regular bed and don’t we all want to get cozy at this time? I would welcome that.

      Regarding the play, children can’t be the ones to extricate us from their play. We have to do that. Saying “no, thanks” and giving our child the space to disagree vehemently is needed. I have many posts and podcasts on this topic in my “Play” topic section: https://janetlansbury.com/tag/play/

      Our role is to offer a safe play area with a small variety of open-ended toys and objects. It is not our role to set up activities or play games with our child during their play. Yes, we might wish to do that occasionally, but I would not continue making this your job. Setting up activities teaches children that they need us to find things for them to do. What they need to realize is that they are quite capable of initiating and creating their own play (which might look like very little to us if we are used to seeing play as looking a certain way). I think this podcast might be helpful for you: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2020/03/kickstarting-your-childs-learning-and-play-at-home-with-lisa-griffen-murphy/

      1. Thank you so much!!!

  18. Hi Janet,

    I am a mother of two boys, 5year old and 10month old. As the 5 year old started staying home, I struggle to give more attention to my 5 year old with my 10 month old during the day when I am alone with them. There have been more tantrums.
    He started to say “you don’t love me” during his tantrum. How should I respond to that? It is usually when I walk away with the baby or I tell him to give us a break because he is being too loud and/or wild(Throwing things/hitting). I can see how he feels unloved when I tell him to go or I am leaving(with the baby, no less) during the time he needs me most but I also feel lost..How do I balance a 5 year old’s tantrum when I am having to focus on 10 month old?

    Thank you so much for all you do. Your podcasts and and blog posts are my sanctuary when I feel lost as a parent.
    I hope you and your family stay well during this time!

    Sumi

    1. Hi Sumi! Aww, this guy has found a way to express himself that goes right to your heart. Children are so perceptive that way. He has heard this from you, or maybe he said it once and you reacted, so he knows this is a soft spot. Children always know.

      I would accept, acknowledge and empathize with your dear boy with confidence, not fear. Not feeling sorry for him or yourself. Welcoming this passionate, dramatic statement. I’ll bet you anything he knows you love him. I’d say something like, “Aww, and now it feels I don’t love you! Oh, that is a sad feeling! I hear you. I can’t wait to be with you after I do ____ with your brother.” While you are saying this, carry on with what you need to do. Don’t wait for him to agree and give you permission.

  19. Hi, Janet!

    Thank you for all that you do! I have an almost 3-year old and a 2-month old. Two questions regarding my toddler. I have read your posts about the importance of allowing kids to struggle with boredom, but I am curious as to what a clever response would be to the statement “I don’t know what to do!” – which my little girl loves to say even more now that we are stuck inside.

    Also, since the new baby is demanding a lot of my attention, and I am the only one home as my husband is a doctor and on call at the hospital for days and hours on end, my toddler is finding ways to get and hold my attention…like bedtime. She was dragging it out so much, and then screaming, “Mommy!!!” and crying after I left which she had never done before. So I started telling her that I’d be back in a few minutes to check on her so she could expect me to return, but it could be controlled. Well, that worked for a little, but now even with my encore return, she is still screaming for me after I leave the second time, only to ask me to tuck her in again. I know where this is coming from, and I want her to know that I am here for her when she needs me, but I do not want to do this every night. Do I tell her that (be honest, set a limit) and then ignore her cries (follow through, let her feelings be)? Any tips are appreciated! Thank you!

    1. I have a similar bedtime problem with my 2.5 year old and a similar boredom problem. Interested in Janet’s response!

    2. avatar Blaise Cooper says:

      I am also having this problem at 2 years 9months! My daughter has slept through the night for a very long time until now. She wakes almost every two hours crying out for me wanting me to sit in her room all night. I am 26 weeks pregnant and need to get the rest. It feels impossible!

    3. Hi Megan!

      1) You don’t need a clever response. Just acknowledge something like, “Ah, yes, it can be hard sometimes. I believe in you.”

      2) There isn’t a set way to do this, but what’s needed is confidence from you. A period at the end of your sentence. It can help to develop a routine with her.. a list of the things she wants before bedtime (book, song, 2 kisses, tuck-in, etc., but don’t make it more than you want to do) and you might even say, “And now when l leave, if you need to yell at me, that’s okay. I can’t wait to see you in the morning.” Period. That might give you both permission for the complaining/calling. You’ll need to be the one to decide when/if you need to go back in. Lisa Sunbury did a podcast with me on this: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2017/09/solving-toddler-sleep-issues-with-sleep-expert-lisa-sunbury/

  20. avatar Melissa Langevin says:

    Hello Mrs Lansbury,

    Thank you for your kind voice, expertise and wisdom as we all navigate these complicated times.

    Our son is 2.5 years old and today we had an interaction that broke my heart. Obviously, his little life of home with mom on mat leave (7 month old sister at home), has been turned upside down.

    We are both medical professionals and our son has had to go to the emergency for his asthma, so we’ve explained in simple terms that there is a new virus that no one is protected from that can make some people really sick, so we are staying inside Or going outside on our bikes (but should stay on our bikes) and only hugging mom, dad and his sister so that we all stay healthy and virus free.

    He seems to have integrated that quite well and has accepted the change in our routine.

    Today, we happened to run in to his best little buddy in front of our house. Normally, they would run to each other, hold hands and play some form of catch. It is carefree and filled with so much joy.

    Felix went to run to his friend and then turns to me and says “mommy, is the virus gone? Can I play with my friend?”

    It was such a mature, restrained question. He said it so seriously but with so much hope. In some ways, I know that if we keep saying “we can’t because of COVID (yes, he calls it COVID), remember, the virus, etc, he will listen.

    On the other hand, I want to protect him from that potential fear. I want him to just think this is a strange time where he gets to see mom AND dad a lot and then life will come back to a version of normal.

    How do we explain to our toddlers these notions of physical distancing all the while not creating a fear of interactions and closeness? How do we answer repeated questions about being able to see grandma and grandpa and friends ?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Melissa! Thank you so much for the work that you are doing.

      Psychologist Tina Payne Bryson gives some sage advice in this brief video. I think you will find it answers your question: https://vimeo.com/402467778

  21. Hi Janet! Thank you for doing this! I was actually just wishing that I could ask you a question! My 3.5 year old son is normally VERY independent, creative, and imaginative. At home he often plays for long periods of time by himself or will happily find activities to do on his own. Since the quarantine, he seems to demand constant entertainment. He wants me to be with him all the time. I think part of this might be because we had to quarantine away from my husband who is a healthcare professional. So we are at my parents house in a different city. I know he feel safe and happy here, but his independence is really lacking and I am getting very tired from having constant pressure to come up with new activities or ways to entertain him when I normally do not have to do this. I definitely validate his feelings about missing daddy and missing our house, and we even read a conscious discipline book about healthcare professionals who have to be separate from their families right now.
    Thank you for your help! I often repeat to myself, “we can do this.”

    1. Hi Laura!

      My advice is don’t get caught up doing this: “I am getting very tired from having constant pressure to come up with new activities or ways to entertain him when…”
      He doesn’t need it! What he needs is to express his feelings to you through these exchanges. That’s one of the wonderful ways children self-heal… they unconsciously push boundaries so that when we hold those boundaries, they have a way to vent feelings (that are not really about a lack of entertainment). So instead of avoiding his feelings by appeasing him, hold strong so that he can be free to feel all the annoyances and losses in this situation we are all in. Feeling is healing and will help him to settle in and create his therapeutic play.

  22. avatar Stephanie Ward says:

    Thank you, Janet! My 2.5 year old son and I have been together 24/7 for the past 3.5 weeks of quarantine. Our time has been wonderful together, and I have treasured it being the last few weeks of him being an only child. I am due with our second child April 24! My mom (who he adores) will be coming to stay with him while we are in the hospital. I am so worried about him being separated from me for 2-3 days after getting used to being joined at my hip (on top of the HUGE transition of gaining a sibling!). Any advice?

    1. Hi Stephanie – Exciting news! And how lovely that you’ve treasured this time with your boy.

      The best thing you can do is approach this situation feeling confident that he WILL be okay. He can handle this. He may have feelings about it and he has a right, right? Tell him exactly what will happen, just the facts, don’t try to whitewash it or suggest how he’ll feel. You could say that this will be hard for YOU because you have treasured this time just the two of you. You will miss him and be so happy to see him in a few days. Something like that?

      Take care!

  23. Hi Janet! I have a 3 year old boy and 2 year old girl (and a 3 month old boy, but he’s still mostly harmless 😉 ) that seem to get into everything they’re not supposed to. Just to give you an idea, I learned how to get a full bottle of nail polish out of hair and carpet the other day which was emptied while I fed the baby and their dad went to the restroom. If we turn our heads, they get into something they’re not supposed to, mostly big brother’s ideas, and then end up getting in trouble which upsets them. I’ve been providing them with activities every day and they have SO many toys to play with so I just don’t understand what we’re doing wrong that’s making them intentionally get into things they know they’re not supposed to get into. I’m at a loss because it’s exhausting and it’s almost expected at this point.

    1. Hi Amanda! Can you describe how they are “getting into trouble which upsets them”? You may be giving too much power and negative attention to these explorations, thereby actually encouraging them. Also, this is a time when behavior will be especially “off the rails” so set yourselves up for success by child-proofing your home as best you can. We are feeling a little crazy right now.

      As I’ve said to others, I would not make it your role to set up activities. Less is more.

  24. Hi Janet!

    I have a highly energetic 16 month old boy. Before social distancing, we would take him to the playground/mini nature walks almost on a daily basis, because we can see how he craves gross motor movement. He truly is happier outdoors, exploring during these periods of time when we let him lead, intervening only if he needs or wants us to. Because we live in an apartment, we’ve been having to stay at home most of time now, and I can see how it’s affecting him and his mood. I’ve tried to implement many of the fun indoor activities I see online (sensory bins, bath tub ideas, messy painting, etc), yet very few things manage to do the trick. I believe he is either too young to be engaged, or simply not interested. I worry about not being able to provide him of the opportunities his body needs right now: climbing, running, going up and down the slide, testing his balance, walking on different surfaces, etc. He is an excellent walker but will not hold our hands, therefore it is hard to take him to any outdoor space, because he can easily run away from us.

    Should I be concerned about this having a long term impact on his development? Should I keep trying with the indoor activities, or just let him play more freely at home, too? Thank you so much for doing this and helping so many families!

    1. Hi Vivianne — Yes to this: “just let him play more freely at home, too?” I would not be setting up activities for him. Just provide the objects and equipment that he can use freely and safely. Sounds like he needs more room to move and less stuff. Does he have a stair climber or other indoor equipment? There are some items in my “recommended” section, might be some ideas for you there: https://www.janetlansbury.com/recommended-category/for-children/

      No, I don’t believe this period will seriously impact development. That would only happen if he was spending time restricted in containers, etc.

  25. Hi Janet! I’ve been following your website for awhile now. I really appreciate you adding this comment section! I have an 8 year old son. As a teacher I am currently working from home. My husband is still going to work everyday. The biggest struggle that I have is that I feel that I am working constantly without a break. I ask my husband to help out, but most often he is in the bedroom playing video games. He says he needs time to unwind after work. I understand that, but I am struggling to keep on top of my work, homeschool our son and I am also taking 3 college courses. Any advice?

    1. avatar Piper Kotsaftis says:

      Hi Janet,
      I have a 6.5 year old son and a 2 year old daughter. My daughter is quite happy it seems and satisfied with neighborhood walks. My son likes it too but seems to need more. If we could just go to new outside places it would help but we can’t. All parks/beaches in California are closed. My son really needs me to do more focused projects with him but when we try my daughter wants to participate too and the whole thing falls apart. My husband is working from home so I must keep them away from him as much as possible. We go to Waldorf school and he is/was looking forward to many things before transitioning from kindergarten to first grade. He complains all afternoon and asks what he can do that’s fun. None of my ideas are good and he gets grumpier and grumpier. I try to just be there for him and let him have his feelings but he gets really mad at me for not “helping him with his feelings” I feel like he depends so much on me right now to be calm and grounded and it is hard to always be that way when I myself am anxious. If I can bring the right energy I can usually help the day flow but I am so depleted it is challenging. I miss hearing him laugh the way he does with his friends. I miss having him be really tired after a long day.

      1. Hi Piper – Those things you are missing are REAL and I would let yourself grieve these temporary losses: “I miss hearing him laugh the way he does with his friends. I miss having him be really tired after a long day.”

        This also stood out for me: “he gets grumpier and grumpier. I try to just be there for him and let him have his feelings but he gets really mad at me for not “helping him with his feelings”” Getting mad at you for not fixing his feelings is PART of him sharing those feelings. 🙂 This sounds like an older child’s version of a toddler tantrum. They lash out with these kinds of words and demands. So, i would trust these outbursts and not get drawn in to them. Just nod your head when he says those things. It’s safe and okay, and the more he gets to express his sadness, the sooner he’ll get back to laughing and creating his own play. He needs to clear these feelings all the way.

    2. Hi Kasey! I would let go of the homeschooling for now and allow for more open-ended learning — play that your child chooses (other than extended screen time). You might also benefit from consulting with a family therapist to help with your relationship issues, someone like Susan Stiffelman: http;//susanstiffelman.com

  26. How would you recommend that we explain what’s happening to little ones? We have a 3 year old, and we’ve been telling him there is a virus which makes people sick, we are trying to stay healthy and keep everyone healthy. We’ve told him that he’s being a ‘hero’ by staying home, because it helps everyone in our community. (He is into superhero stuff.).

    Also do you think now is a good or bad time to potty train? He’s not having a super hard time but occasionally will express frustration or sadness.

    Thank you!! You have helped me immensely with a kid with big emotions.

  27. Hi Janet! I have a 5yo son and 2yo daughter…. my son was attending preschool 4 days for 3.5hrs before the quarantine. Now that we’re home be genuinely seems to enjoy the extra family time (although he misses his friends from school). However, he’s been REALLY rude to his sister… telling her how she should play, trying to control how she does nearly everything, and creating games for them to play that involve pushing or bumping each other where she has no Chance to win. Somehow we’ve found ourselves using time-outs regularly because when he does this sort of thing I feel like he needs to take a break from her… but I don’t know if that’s the right approach? Thank you!

    1. Hi Megan – Can you gently offer breaks without making this a punishment like Time-out? His controlling behavior is very normal for big brothers, particularly in a time of change and stress. Taking charge can make one feel better about all we don’t control. Understanding this behavior will help you to stay on his side and only gently, minimally intervene when the behavior gets physically dangerous. I would allow the bossiness and trust your daughter to navigate this as much as possible. Trust more, intervene less, and ideally, don’t judge at all.

  28. Hi Janet – I am a huge fan of your work – thank you! We have two boys, 5.5 and 2. Our 2yo is a very independent, opinionated kid; he attends Montessori daycare and his teachers always comment on how well he plays independently. My older son is a bit anxious and clingy, and everything going on in the world right now hasn’t helped things. Now that we’re all together, my older son ALWAYS wants to be playing with the younger one – from the second they get up to the second they go to bed at night. My 2yo seems to enjoy this as well, but I worry that my older son is constantly dictating the activities and my 2yo has no space to himself. (Occasionally he’ll seem to have “had it” and will go lay in my bed – at which point the older one tries to get in bed too – and I usually intervene and tell him to give his brother space – but our house is not very big and they share a room, so there just aren’t that many places/opportunities for the 2yo to escape.) Do I need to be concerned? Are there things I should be doing to help? Thank you!!

    1. Thanks, Ellen! I would trust this all the way. Sounds like great sibling play to me. They need this space and trust to develop their relationship. Enjoy!

  29. avatar Jessica Ascevedo says:

    Hi Janet,

    I am home with my 2.5 year old toddler and 10 month old while trying to work part time. For the most part I work before they wake up and during their naps to make sure I’m productive but also giving them my full attention. However, my toddler is really struggling with being home all day (he’s used to being at daycare during the week and at his grandparent’s on the weekends). Even though we do a lot of outside time (weather permitting), he has been increasingly violent towards mom, dad and little brother.
    When he gets upset he starts throwing things, hitting or screaming. We tell him we understand that he’s upset because of “X” but that we won’t let him hit, so we physically stop him. But sometimes this goes on all day and we can only handle so much with a neutral tone without getting upset; it’s exhausting. Even getting him to wash up before lunch is a struggle most days . Any advise is appreciated.

    1. Hi Jessica – I would consider a bit more empathy in your responses. “I understand.. but ” and stopping him does not give him an outlet and a sense of acceptance for the feelings behind these behaviors. Why kinds of things upset him?

  30. avatar Kendra White says:

    Any tips on initiating quiet time for a 4.5yr old when we haven’t done it in the past?

    1. Hi Kendra – How about, “For this period of time I’m going to be resting/doing work/etc., and you can play or rest in your room. Then I’ll come get you and we can have snack together.” Then if he or she doesn’t comply and moves to where you are, just continue what you said you would be doing. Don’t make a big deal of this. We can only control what we can control, which is what WE are doing.

  31. Hi Janet,
    I have a 4.5 yr old a 6 month old twins and I feel like we are getting in a bad cycle of taking away toys and activities from the 4.5yr old. When I am trying to feed or get the twins down for a nap my 4.5yr old will get in their faces to distract them from eating or start making loud noises/jumping around as soon as they get to sleep. So the twins are fussy because they are not sleeping and need more attention while I am feeling so worn down and annoyed that I can’t get 30 mins to do this because of my big kid. I’ve tried explaining that I can spend more time with her if she gave me the time to the twins to sleep but it doesn’t seem to phase her and neither does taking things away.
    I’m just tired and feeling like I’m becoming the type of parent I never wanted to be.

    1. Hi Amy – it sounds like she’s dysregulated in these moments so I would not be reactive and add more stress to the situation. Let her distract. Relax. Don’t give it power yourself and she will eventually lose interest in this behavior. Just do your best. At the twins’ bedtime, I would consider a locked door, but you can’t control what your daughter does outside of that door. Again, letting the noisiness be is the best way to make it end. The behavior makes sense in this wound-up situation we’re all in, and especially when there are adorable baby twins needing so much of your parent’s attention. Let these storms pass rather than trying to push back on them, which doesn’t work and drains SO much of our energy. Hang in there!

  32. Help! What do you do when the actual screaming is so loud you are losing hearing? My daughter is now 13 months and has a shriek over 100 decibels. Yes, this is her way of expressing everything/ getting her needs met because she can’t yet talk, and I know she understands alot even so. We do everything we can to create a solid routine, anticipate her needs to prevent shrieking and to give her attention & Lots of space to express. My 3 year old son cries because it hurts his ears (and ours) when she is in shriek-mode (especially in the car when he can’t move away). I know this must be common but is there anything I can do to help her? I’m losing my hearing- not a joke. Thank you!

    1. Hi Margaret – is it possible for you to get noise-cancelling headphones? I wish I had a magical solution. These are experimental phases that pass quickly if we can let them be and not give them power. In other words, children notice that this an effectively strong way to express themselves, so if we give it less attention and less power to upset us, they stop. You obviously can’t control how your 3 year old reacts, but you can try to refrain from making much of it yourself. Have you read this?https://www.janetlansbury.com/2011/10/when-toddlers-scream/ Hope that helps. This too shall pass.

  33. Hi Janet, thank you so much for all you do. I found your work when my eldest was 1 & finding you has literally been the best thing that has happened to me as a parent.
    My children are currently 5yrs & 13months. We have separate yes spaces for them both & have had supervised play together for short periods. Now that my 5yr old is no longer at school he is in desperate need of social interaction & wants to play with his little sister constantly, but struggles not to be rough. I am struggling to manage a balance of alone & together time while both my husband & I need to do some work from home as well. Do I just need to keep them apart as much as possible? or relax my expectations & just let them play together?

    1. Thank you, Kirstie! I like this idea a lot: “..relax my expectations & just let them play together?” If the play gets out of hand into a physical safety issue, I would intervene calmly, not urgently, and do the most minimal thing to safeguard. That might look like holding your son’s hand just an inch away if he’s pressing too hard, etc. “Hmm… I think that’s a bit too strong. ” And then maybe, “What do you think, (to your 13 month old)? while you are holding his hand slightly away. So very lalalala. Not giving this power to upset you. It’s very normal stuff!

      1. Thank you Janet! I have tried letting things go more & my 5 year old is much more relaxed around his sister already. He is highly emotionally sensitive & I think I was probably acting too tense being ready to stop him from hurting his sister & it was putting him on edge. It’s so often more about us than them huh!

        1. Yes! That’s a great self-reflection, Kirstie. You’ve got this!

  34. avatar Lydia Fairhall says:

    Hey Janet. My daughter is newly 3 and I’m curious about her responses when it comes to identifying feelings. If she gets upset about something I try and help identify it by saying “wow, you sound very angry right now” or “ I sense that you’re feeling sad.” Almost every time I try and do this with her, she just screams “NO!” in my face before I can even finish the sentence. What can I do to help meet her needs in this scenario?

    1. Hi Lydia – do you feel you are genuinely empathizing with her or more just saying the words in a detached manner? Sometimes children become more reactive when they sense we are trying to say the right thing/ going through the motions, rather than genuinely connecting. On the other hand, “NO!” is a continued expression of those feelings she has, right? Here’s a post that might help explain the differences that I’m talking about: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2014/11/when-empathy-doesnt-work/

  35. I have a 2.5 year old, 5 year old and 8 year old. My husband works full time and I am very lucky to be a sahm. The week days have become a nightmare. I am doing my best to help the older kids with their virtual school but the kindergartener needs quite a bit of help and sometimes the second grader does as well. However, the whole time my 2.5 year old is a wrecking ball. He was in a very nurturing and enriching preschool program and is also in isolation at home. I seem to not be able to leave him long enough to help the big kids. He then starts banging on my husbands office door crying for him in the work day. I don’t want to default to tv or the tablet but I am out of ideas for activities where he can entertain himself for more than 15 minutes at a time. His nap time seems to be the only time I can help the big kids and I am exhausted by then I need to recoup and relax. Help!

    1. Hi Megan – To be honest, I don’t have a solution for you. A couple of things come to mind:

      1) It annoys me (being honest here) that your children are given work that they need so much help with. It would be my instinct to use this time to give children very loose guidelines for their “work.” But it is not my place to advise on these matters.

      2) What would happen if you did not set up activities for your toddler and just allowed him to wander or stay close by while you are with his siblings? It’s understandable that he is unsettled and excited to have his siblings home with him. Rather than trying to direct him, I would let him hang around, whine, cry, even bang on Dad’s door, do whatever he needs to do to settle in without you trying to fix this. We can spend so much energy trying to the fix the feelings and then they still persist and we’re understandably exhausted. I would do less and trust his wobbly-ness much more.

  36. avatar Lindsey Carver says:

    Hi Janet! I listen to all your podcasts and try to implement as best I can. I try to talk to my husband so we are on the same page, but it doesn’t come as naturally to him, neither really. We have a 3.5 year old daughter and a 9 month old. It’s been a challenge from the beginning of our second’s birth for our 3 yo. She is very verbal so seems she’s older, she’s loud, strong willed with lots of opinions, and very controlling. She feels the need to control every single thing. I know it’s because of the newbie, but she was like this to a lesser degree before. She is rough, squeezes too hard, holds with control our baby and talks back saying “no,” or has an aggressive mean attitude in whatever she says. I’ll say, “I can’t let you push her down like that, I need to move you,” and her reply is something like, “Don’t push me!” “I can hold her if I want! She’s my sister!” Other responses to typical things we say no to or won’t let her to, she explodes crying or says “That’s not my idea!” (when I set up an acitivity or suggest a game), “I won’t do it.” “You can’t say that” “I’m Elsa and Elsa doesn’t wear jackets!” “If you don’t let me, I won’t ____.” “I don’t like it when you scream at me!” (when I raise my voice). We’ve tried the gentle approach, we’ve tried time outs (she hates sitting still and being alone), and raising our voices. We need to stick to one now but none seemed to work hence trying others. We feel at a loss. Her behavior is so abrupt and so rude I can’t let her get away with how she responds.
    It’s very frustrating and draining. I feel I constantly have to be stern and need help with phrasing. If you are able to take the time or direct me to a podcast or blog (most likely read/listened but will definitely listen again-also read no bad kids). Thank you!

    1. Hi Lindsey! As you may remember from my book and podcasts, I don’t recommend Time-out or sternness, because it’s been my experience that those strategies create more discord and, therefore, more of these behaviors. Your daughter sounds like she’s behaving out of dysregulation and needs you to stay on her side and help her (when she’s too excitable to be gentle with the baby) and not give power to her controlling words and attitudes. Keep remembering how tiny she is. And she sounds very overwhelmed. Not sure where to steer you if you’ve read my book, already. The approaches I suggest are different than what you’re doing. Here are a couple of podcasts you might have missed that I hope will be helpful:
      https://www.janetlansbury.com/2017/08/my-toddlers-a-little-rough-with-the-baby/

      https://www.janetlansbury.com/2019/02/bossy-controlling-and-emotional-over-random-things/

      https://www.janetlansbury.com/2016/09/choosing-your-battles-with-a-controlling-child/

  37. Hi Janet, we are in a nationwide lockdown in New Zealand. Most mornings my 4-yr old says first thing when she wakes up that she’s scared to die or she’s scared her mum, or dad will die. She has also gone back to multiple wet pants every day. We don’t watch the news or talk too much about what’s going on in the world, but have explained in honesty why we can’t see other people right now. I wonder if you have some suggestions of how to help her through some of the fear & stress she’s obviously carrying?

    1. Hi Petra! I am so sorry she has these fears. Had dying been brought up? Not sure if you saw the link I’ve been sharing with people, but it talks about framing the situation as creating safety, rather than focusing on the danger and tragedy: https://vimeo.com/402467778

      However, if a child asks about death, I would always answer their questions honestly.

      But regardless, it sounds like she is at this point afraid. Here are some guidelines for helping her process her fears. This is about bedtime, but applies to all fears: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2017/03/its-okay-to-be-scared-5-steps-for-easing-bedtime-fears/

  38. Hi Janet,
    Our 5.5 year old is who is struggling the most with this and I am at a loss how to support her. She will have a few great days where she is so happy, helpful and willing to participate in all the activities we are doing at home and then an absolutely terrible day. One day last week she was triggered when I asked her to get dressed. She was running around screaming and yelling at me, hit me and told me she hated me! I was shocked and crushed as it had never happened before. It took her about 2 hours to come down from her tantrum enough to talk with her calmly- up until then I kept my distance so I didn’t get angry and fuel the fire. We talked about the word hate and she was very remorseful and sad she said that to me. She told me she didn’t know what it meant and that she will never use it when talking about a person again.

    Ffwd a few good days and then to yesterday when basically the same thing happened, triggered over something little and then told me she hated me again on and on for 2 hours. At the end of her tantrum she was again crying and very sad and told me she is really mad at “what is happening in the world” we talked a lot about how it’s okay to be mad and came up with many ideas on things she can do to express her anger that doesn’t hurt someone else.

    I don’t know how to help her talk through her emotions over covid and all the things she is missing right now before they boil over and turn into explosive episodes. This is so hard.

    1. Hi Lindsey – Honestly, I can relate to her highs and lows. I think many of us feel as she does — great on some days and anxious and overwhelmed on others. I don’t recommend zeroing in on her outbursts and on the word ‘hate,’ etc. I would not give words like that the power to upset you. Children may sense early on that we sometimes feel the opposite of love for them and it’s really okay for them to reflect that back when they are upset. It’s also very normal for young children to lash out by hitting or with words that they do not mean. So, block her from hitting you, keep her safe, but I would allow her storms to pass through. Rise above this. “Getting dressed has really set you off today, my love.” Then let her spin out until the storm passes.

      1. avatar Jenny Leonard says:

        Hi Janet, thanks for opening up this forum. This thread intrigues me because I have similar problems with my 7 year old boy. (He has a 3 year old sister and my husband and I are working from home full time at the moment.) When things don’t go his way he flies off the handle very easily and uses bad language, hits, kicks and slams doors. I am wondering how much of this I should accept as part of him venting his frustrations with everything going on and where to use consequences (hitting me and using very bad language has so far had the consequence of no screen time but I am not sure it is working!).

  39. avatar Amy M Manner says:

    Hi Janet!

    Thank you for this opportunity. I have a 2.5 year old daughter and a 9 month old son. In the four weeks of social distancing, my children have changed so much! I’m grateful for this time to witness so many developmental milestones. Both of my children attend a wonderful Montessori program when I am working in an elementary school as a psychologist. I am trying my best to replicate their experiences at home. While I have many worries for them, my biggest struggle is working in front of them. I am tasked with holding many virtual meetings with teachers, parents, and students. Prior to this crazy time we are living in, I never worked in front of my children, only when they slept or when they were out and about with my husband. With both of us required to work, I feel like I am failing my children miserably by having my face glued to technology. We rarely allow screen time – a weekly movie night and occasionally episode of Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers- for my 2.5 year old. But now, they have Zoom circle times with their classmates and sometimes putting on a show is the only way I can make it through an IEP meeting. Working in their presence feels like neglect and teaches them that technology is king. How can I make sure that I can get my work done without impairing my relationship and healthy attachment to my children? I feel so guilty.

    Thank you,

    Amy Manner

    1. Hi Amy – I love that you are able to see some of what’s happening in a positive light — witnessing your children’s development in a manner that you might not have with all of life’s distractions.

      This stood out for me: “I am trying my best to replicate their experiences at home.” I would not make this a goal if it is at all pressurizing for you. It’s unnecessary for them to have school at home, particularly as they are very, very young for any kind of structured learning. At this age, it’s better for them to find their own flow in self-directed play.

      Regarding your question, allowing them more space and time to develop their self-directed play will be super helpful, because it frees you up from trying to set things up to engage them, AND is the best way for them to learn at this age. The Zoom time for a 2.5 year -old honestly makes no sense to me. Toddlers and preschoolers are experiential, hands-on learners. They need to explore with all of their senses, not via a screen.

      My other recommendation is a daily routine that you develop with them. For example:
      Wake up – change diapers (you are fully engaged with them at this time)
      Breakfast (fully engaged)
      Self-directed time in safe play area while parents clean up kitchen, chores, etc.
      Parent sits with children for a few minutes while they play (fully attentive)
      Baby goes does down for a nap (fully engaged)
      Parent works at computer while toddler continues play (could some of this be outdoors on a laptop?)
      Parent goes to prepare lunch while children continue playing
      Lunch (fully engaged)
      Toddler goes down for a nap (fully engaged)
      Parent works until baby wakes up
      etc.

      A family rhythm will help children to sleep better, eat better, play better and be a little more agreeable to you working. They may still complain and cry… and if you haven’t cultivated their self-directed play, I would give shorter periods at first between when they’ll have your attention. I wouldn’t worry about the computer time. Just be honest about it. and keep yourself to the routine so your children learn what to expect.

      1. Another important element to this is that when you are with them, you are TRULY with them, not half-attentive. That and the predictable routine make a big difference.

        1. avatar Amy M Manner says:

          Janet, thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my questions and concerns. I truly value your input.

  40. avatar Blaise Cooper says:

    Hi Janet!
    Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Our daughter is 2years 9 months and is a very empathetic and sensitive child and she seems to be really struggling with all of this. Our daily routine hasn’t changed a lot (since I stay at home with her normally) with the exception of my husband working from home. We are expecting our second child in July and I was hoping the last few months with my daughter solo would be sweet and enriching time for all of us. However she has started throwing big tantrums, she is very emotional crying a lot through the day and is now waking up multiple times per night screaming out for us. She has slept through the night since 6 months old with an exception here and there but this seems to be different. She misses family and her little playmates and asks me constantly why we can’t go out to play. I don’t know how much to tell her, I worry that the fear of everything going on is what’s causing her to be insecure and I don’t know how to comfort and reassure her. Any tips to help calm and comfort and help her feel more secure during this time? We all need some sleep!
    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Blaise! My guess is that these feelings and disruptions are almost entirely about the big impending change in her life… the birth of a sibling. The other disruptions add to her discomfort, but pale in comparison with this scary mysterious impending shift in her relationship with her parents, etc. Here are a couple of posts to help you understand this period:

      These podcasts: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2016/05/what-to-expect-from-your-older-child-when-youre-expecting-and-thoughts-about-classes-for-toddlers/

      https://www.janetlansbury.com/2018/12/how-and-when-to-prepare-your-child-for-a-new-sibling-or-any-big-transition/

      And these posts: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2010/11/mommys-pregnant-toddler-is-not-pleased/

      https://www.janetlansbury.com/2013/08/new-baby-helping-our-good-kids-express-hard-feelings/

      https://www.janetlansbury.com/2013/04/helping-kids-adjust-to-life-with-the-new-baby/

      1. In regard to her questions, be simple, direct, honest. “..asks me constantly why we can’t go out to play. ”

        “There’s an illness going around and it’s our job to help keep everyone extra safe, so we need to stay close to home and not see friends for now.”

        If she asks again, reflect and acknowledge what she says, “Ah, yes, it’s hard. You miss seeing your friends. This is a challenge for all of us.”

        Children can feel secure about the situation if we can. But it needs to be okay for them to feel the losses, etc., whatever feelings come up for them.

  41. Dear Janet,
    My almost three year old is generally going with the flow and mostly enjoying having mom and dad at home all the time. He is sad that his school is closed and he asks why he can’t hug his friend that walks by or his grandparents. When he pretends, he makes his little characters talk about how they wish they had friends and that the park is closed and that makes them feel lonely. Of course this is sad, but the real heartbreaker is that he’s avoiding interacting with his grandparents. Before the virus, he was very close to all 4 of them. We have tried to do video calls almost daily, they send him lots of mail, and they even drive by (the live near us) and try to talk to him from the car while he plays in our yard. He becomes quiet and withdrawn. I asked him why he didn’t want to talk to them (later on when he was back to his normal nonstop chatting) and he said he felt nervous. I don’t know what else I can do to help him feel secure and maintain his beautiful relationship with them. He is high risk due to asthma as are his grandparents of course. Help!

    1. avatar Eleonor Waelkens says:

      Dear Emily,

      I don’t know what Janet would say, but it seems to me you could just relax. A beautiful relationship like you have going doesn’t disappear suddenly over the course of a few weeks.

      My two year old has been to my parents’ house only a couple of times because my father was diagnosed with cancer when she was 1,5 years old and we live far away. When she was there at Christmas, she was thoughtful for a few moments and then went straight to the cupboard where the toys for her age are stored without asking anyone.

      I hope this helps you a bit until Janet has time to answer!

      1. I love your response, Eleonor! Thank you!

        Hi Emily – I agree wholeheartedy with Eleonor. I imagine he’s quiet and seems withdrawn and says he’s “nervous” because it’s a very odd situation to be talking to his grandparents that way. That’s not easy for him to roll with as a toddler. It doesn’t mean he’s heartbroken or feeling insecure. As I’ve shared with other commenters, children can feel secure in this situation if we can. And oftentimes, we tend to project our own heavier feelings into our children. We have a right to grieve the losses we are feeling (ideally not so much in our children’s presence) and children need the space and trust to have their own process around this. They tend to accept the facts much more readily than we do.

  42. Hi,
    My soon to be three year old (3 in July) has just started coming into our bed at night because she sees “him” “there’s someone coming” “he’s in your room, right there”. This happens before falling asleep too. She’s wide awake and shares that she’s scared. I sit with her and say that she’s safe and that the only people in the house are her dad, her, and me. But I feel like I’m missing something… how can I help her? She’s quite scared of something. We usually just sit together until she feels comfortable going back to her room. I feel like I’m dismissing her fears a bit.

    1. avatar Eleonor Waelkens says:

      Hi Natasha, I don’t know what Janet would say, but in my experience children of that age can get suddenly scared of something that they don’t understand. It could be covid, it could be death – something big that they can’t name and don’t understand. What I would do is just calmly acknowledge her feelings ‘You feel like someone you don’t know is coming in our house? I understand you’re afraid because that is really really scary.’ And than sit with her quietly like you do until she feels comfortable again. That sounds really great.

    2. Again, I love your response, Eleonor.

      Natasha – I would begin by accepting without your own fear and then explore a little with her. “Hmm… wow, what does this person look like. Can you tell me about him?” You might learn something about what she’s imagining/thinking. I’d want to know more, wouldn’t you?

      From there, (still remaining calm and accepting yourself) there may be problem-solving you can do with her around this. I share more details in this post:https://www.janetlansbury.com/2017/03/its-okay-to-be-scared-5-steps-for-easing-bedtime-fears/
      Hope it helps!

  43. avatar Cristina Medina says:

    My 9 year old dyslexic son and my 4 almost 5 year old daughter continue to fight daily. It gets rather dramatic, my son’s self esteem has been shattered over the years of public school and his self image related to his dyslexia has caused him to have a short temper and be volatile: yelling loudly, arguing with his parents, throwing things, being physical with his sister. We had just adjusted his IEP to include therapy and additional assistance at school. The school has been good to continue contact and provide virtual counseling. We also had him visiting with an outside school therapist weekly but because of the quarantine has been cut down to every other week online. He is refusing to do any physical activity and was always craving social time with his best friend who he hasn’t seen in weeks. He was having panic attacks before school this semester and wouldn’t get out of the car. We thought maybe not being in school would help but now I am realizing that this entire situation is causing him anxiety in new forms that may result in him picking fights with little sister, blowing up in tantrums about small things. My husband and I hope to try to keep him on a schedule but he bucks that and some days refuses to cooperate. His behavior is sporadic-I can never tell what spurs his behavior. It could be phrases, or the tone of our voice- if we aren’t compliant to his desires he says things like we don’t love him and he may have a full blown tantrum. We are often at a loss as to what to do.

    1. I feel for you, Cristina. Glad you have the counseling. I’m sorry to say that your concerns are beyond the scope of my work. I’m a big fan of Mona Delahooke’s and Tina Payne Bryson’s advice for the challenges you are experiencing.

      Please take good care.

  44. 1 more ! Thanks again for everything you do.

    What is the best way to show empathy with a 4 yo big feelings without over doing it? Without encouraging her to dramatize everything? I worry I’m doing that. What is the best tone? How often is too often for a child that age to be melting down?
    Also, should a child that age be allowed to pick what to wear daily or is that the overwhelming?

  45. Hi Janet, thank you for being a wonderful resource! My daughter, 4 years old, is truly testing our limits lately.

    She wakes up, and demands “I want to watch a TV show!” (yes, we’ve had more screen time than usual..) I gently say something like, let’s play with duplos or color instead, we’ve had so much TV lately… She agrees, until the next opportunity arises, “I want to eat a bagel!” (when I’m being her cereal).

    It feels like every interaction is a way of her trying to get her way. How do I handle these situations? I want to be understanding of her wanting to feel like she has some power, but also stand my ground with decisions I’ve made.

    1. Hi Rose – I think she may be seeking more confident boundaries from you. So instead of:

      “I gently say something like, let’s play with duplos or color instead, we’ve had so much TV lately… ” I would give her a loving, confident, “no, sorry, we’re not doing that now” (period at the end of your sentence) and allow her to blow up about that if she needs to. Children need those opportunities to disagree with their leaders. Vehemently, sometimes!

      It sounds like you are doing something many of us do (until we realize it doesn’t help), making it better for her by offering her another activity. In a sense, you are trying to avoid a confrontation about this . You are also making more work for yourself — taking on the role of entertainer, which undermines our children’s natural ability to self-entertain.

      This need children have to disagree and express their stress THROUGH those boundaries we hold for them, is why this keeps coming up for you. She’s not getting that dynamic she needs when you try to placate, avoid the explosions, etc.

      “She agrees, until the next opportunity arises, “I want to eat a bagel!” (when I’m being her cereal).”

      Here’s a post about these ideas: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2015/02/7-reasons-kids-need-us-to-disagree/

  46. Hi Janet,
    Thank you so much for all your help and doing all that you’ve been doing. We have a beautiful healthy 2.5 yo that loves his dada to bits. As so many others are, we’re deeply concerned with his safety given that one of us works in the ICU. It’s been very difficult between my partner and I to agree on the best home safety protocols. I’ve been trying to find some guidance on this. Can you please help?

    1. Hi Nora – You are a hero to me! Thank you for all you are doing.

      Sorry but I am not the one to ask about home safety protocols for medical workers. Are there not guidelines for this distributed to your team?

  47. Hi Janet,
    In the midst of lockdown our town was hit by an earthquake and our house was badly damaged so we had to move out. We are temporarily in an apartment where only my eldest (5) has a separate room and neither one of my daughters has their safe space. It’s been so challenging responding proprely to the behaviour of my eldest towards my younger (2). She’s commanding, authoritative, often hits her, shoves her and gets especially agitated when the younger one stops obeying her in play. She also mirrors my behavior when I lose my temper. Both me and my husband find it hard to cope with this and it only exacerbates the behavior I fear. The eldest is a sensitive child and she’s been like this since the younger was born. I try to allow all the feelings, I try to help her find a different way for her to vent her grief but it doesn’t work. And she has her own time with us when the LO is napping.
    Her door lock has a key and that plus being with her in her room are the only two possibilities to keep them physically separated, and neither of these solutions is viable. We often have thing to do and cannot be right next to them all the time.
    When I see this behavior that’s been going on for over two years and has worsened with these events, my fear is that she will grow out to be a perpetually frustrated person and that she’ll feel distanced from us and resentful. When she gets physically aggressive with my younger one I get very protective and aggressive myself. I find it very difficult to avoid these primal responses. Any insight would be appreciates.

    Good luck to you in coping during these difficult times.

    1. Hi Nusa – Sorry about all these challenges. If I were you, I would focus on accepting and encouraging my child’s feelings however they come. She has a lot of them. The commanding, authoritative behavior is okay… I would not judge. The only line I would draw is for physical safety, but even then, I would try to usher in those feelings and desires without judging them at all. This is particularly true as she is venting aggressive actions and tones she’s absorbed from a parent.

      So the anger at her sister “not obeying”… it would be automatic to respond, “Hey, it’s not her job to obey you… ” or some other invalidation. Instead I would recognize that these behaviors are representative of other feelings — her loss of control of her parents feelings about her, etc., mostly fear under all of that, I imagine.

      So generally, I would shower her with empathy and compassion. I would also explore the work of Mona Delahooke and her book Beyond Behaviors.

  48. Hi Janet! My husband and I have been struggling to find age-appropriate, succinct language that might help our 24 month old understand why she can’t visit in person with her grandparents right now, who were previously very physically affectionate with and available to her. Coincidentally, she has been working through a “bug” (insect) phobia since we had to remove a tick from her scalp about five weeks ago, so I am hesitant to use words that might evoke those fears. She understands (to some extent) what it means to be ill, but I don’t want to get stuck in the weeds. My parents are local and have been coming over to do some “window time,” which seems to be good for everyone’s spirits, but my daughter will usually request hugs or try to invite them in. She’s been engaging in lots of grandparent-themed play, so I know this change is on her mind and heart!

    1. Hi Jessica! I can understand hesitating to spark your daughter’s fears, but in truth, doing so can actually create more anxiety. As a side issue, believe it or not, I have a podcast about fear of bugs: https://www.janetlansbury.com/2019/05/seriously-bugged-by-bugs-working-with-your-child-to-overcome-fears/ 🙂

      I would tell her about the virus which is also what causes colds, etc, but this one is more serious and your job and hers is to do your best to keep everyone safe. Susan Stiffelman and I discussed this further in a recent podcast:https://www.janetlansbury.com/2020/03/parenting-in-anxious-times-with-susan-stiffelman-mft/

      From there, it needs to be okay for children to feel however they feel. “Ah, yes, you want hugs from grandma, of course you do! I do, too. I wish we could. We’ll be able to when it’s safer to do so. Can’t wait!” Be upbeat, not pitying. Answer all her questions honestly like that.

  49. avatar Eleonor Waelkens says:

    Dear Janet,

    We have 5 children aged 8, 6, 4, 2 en 6 months. Our normal routine has not changed a lot as we live on a farm in the countryside and homeschool. The only change in routine is that we go out less than usual and my husband is more at home that normally.

    However, I am a bit concerned about our 4 year old. The oldest two potty trained without a problem. I just let them decide when they were ready to go without a diaper, they had a few accidents and then they were fine.

    With our 4 year old, it has been way more difficult. She kept having accidents and both my husband and I lost our cool sometimes because we just didn’t understand where it was coming from. At some point she mentioned that she was scared to go to the bathroom on her own, so we made a point to always have somebody accompany her until she took initiative to go on her own.

    Now with the confinement it has started again and sometimes I worry that she’ll never get out of this. I try not to make a big deal out of it. If she asks me, I’ll go with her, but otherwise I just let her figure it out. If she is too late, she takes new clothes out of her closet on her own and it seems to me that she is old enough to do that on her own.

    Is there something that I could so different to help her? She’s a quiet and obedient child who always wants to help mommy and daddy. I am mostly happy when she is acting out, because otherwise she is always so obedient, but this wetting her pants worries me.

    Thank you for your initiative! It is very generous.

    1. Hi Eleonor – Thank you again for all your supportive replies to others on this thread. I like the way you are handling the situation. Going a step further, it might help to understand this and normalize it for yourself. Even though your daily life has not changed much, we are all feeling the vibes of this situation. And a sensitive child will feel this especially. It sounds like her stress is showing up through this fear of being alone in the bathroom (which I recommend exploring with her! as I explain in this post:https://www.janetlansbury.com/2017/03/its-okay-to-be-scared-5-steps-for-easing-bedtime-fears/), and perhaps it’s also showing up through a weakened ability to control her urination. Makes sense to me! So, I would notice, and stay on her side in a helpful way, not judging her, but I don’t see this as something for you to fear yourself. (Not that I want to invalidate your worries! 🙂 ), but as I said, it makes sense.

  50. avatar Jess Sawyer says:

    Hi Janet… my ten year old daughter is struggling the most with isolation here in the Uk… she struggles with life at the best of time’s so things are just being heightened right now… the issue I’m at a loss with is the arguing between her and her thirteen year old brother…. they bicker constantly … he makes fun of her verbally and then she completely flies off the handle and retaliates physically and screams the house down slamming doors etc which scares my younger two children who are 2 years and 10 weeks… she feels that I don’t discipline my 13 year old enough but I feel there is a big difference between making jokes verbally ( which she also does to him and he takes on the chin) and physically lashing out which I won’t tolerate … I appreciate he lashes out at her too sometimes but he is sneaky enough to do it when I’m not in the room and then deny it and if I haven’t witnessed it first hand it’s one child’s word against the other so I feel there’s little I can do… I try to get them to sort their disputes out themselves as much as I can so they don’t feel I favour one or the other which woul md form more resentment… my daughter craves connection with her brother but he an introvert who likes alone time in his room and because my daughter often flies off the handle and causes most of the tension and disagreements in the house it has damaged their relationship and he has no desire to have a relationship with her anymore which effects her deeply… I’m on my own with the four of them being pulled in every direction… I want to support her emotionally and allow all her feelings but at the same time don’t want her younger siblings growing up thinking her verbal and physical outbursts are ok and copying her behaviour! I also want them both to feel that I’m dealing with their arguments fairly but no matter what I try one of them always seems to feel unjustly treated which causes more problems! Please help! X x

    1. Hi Jess – You have a lot of insight in the way you are handling and mostly trusting the conflicts between your children. I want to encourage you in that direction! As you say: “…but he is sneaky enough to do it when I’m not in the room and then deny it and if I haven’t witnessed it first hand it’s one child’s word against the other so I feel there’s little I can do…” These dynamics between siblings can be quite complex! And they need to be trusted as much as possible to navigate them. We really can’t control the messiness of the conflicts or how they influence the younger children or who decides to model after who, etc. I recommend letting it go. If someone comes to you for help, just listen and acknowledge and then maybe ask, “Ah, what do you feel like doing about that? What would help?” Put the ball back in your child’s court — be the backboard they can bounce things off of. Don’t get into the game. Your instincts about that are spot on and I hope to encourage you to trust them. Yes, emotions are high at this time and everything will be heightened and more intense.

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