Helping Kids Cope with Covid Stay-at-Home

Parent Q&A

Pre-schooler Sleep Issues During Fires, Covid Sep 14, 2020 (2 responses below)
Help with my world-class whiner Jul 2, 2020 (34 responses below)
Where to go for kids to ride a bike May 3, 2020 (31 responses below)
Special gift for a sad 8yo girl with cancelled birthday party Apr 22, 2020 (18 responses below)
Explaining pandemic to your young child(ren) Apr 16, 2020 (7 responses below)
  • I’m looking for feedback on whether your kids are struggling with sleep right now. Has it become erratic? What’s helping you?

    We moved at the start of the pandemic and my child is in her own room, for the first time. It’s close to ours, but she’s really stumbled with both going to sleep and sleeping through the night. Bad dreams, or not enough excercise, especially this week stuck inside. Many times, when she wakes, she’s up from 3am.. til 6am. This has been hard. 

    We’ve used melatonin to get her to sleep so she’s not taking 2-3 hours to fall asleep. We’ve done sleep training throughout her life. But she’s particularly scared of fires (first really bad dream here was about fires in her school, many months ago :(. We don’t want to over use melatonin, nor do we want to be so severe in sleep training during this time, but open to what makes sense.  We’ve let her have books in bed to cycle down, or slept by her bed or have her come in with us, with a really bad dream or night. We want to stop a lot of that within reason but with these times, it’s felt like the best thing in the moment. 

    We’re struggling with whether to be just plain rigorously consistent in never staying there or letting her in bed, no books, and only check in’s (like extinction method), or perhaps continuing to really meet the trauma needs and knowing this is a long game, and offshoot because of this hard season. Thankfully, she’s a pretty well adjusted in this time, although beyond bored this week (no matter the exercise, obstacle course, etc). 

    Really want her to get good rest, and us too. It’s been hard. 

    Thanks for what’s worked for you. 

    Hi there,

    I’m so sorry to hear about these sleep struggles! I’d highly recommend consulting with a professional sleep coach - we’ve used Darrah Torres of Sleep Wise Consulting in the past and she’s been incredible. Any bumps in the road, I always go back to her.

    Good luck!


    Ugh, I’m sorry! This is such a tough one. My daughter went through the same around 3 when we moved her into a bed. Up for hours in the MOTN, often with tantrums. Every night for months, without fail. Our younger son was 6 months at the time so we were desperate for sleep and tried everything, sleep training wise. What eventually worked was a combination of several things, and I think also just passing through the phase (although I will say, she’s almost 5 now and still up 2-3 times a week but they’re usually brief wake ups unless we’re traveling or she’s sick- but in general much easier to deal with). Like you described, we struggled with whether we should just give in and lay with her every night or do some sort of sleep training. We did both for awhile which didn’t work. Finally we asked her what she needed to feel ok in the night and over a couple weeks she came up with: a special buddy (stuffed animal), soft blanket, sleeping with one of my t-shirts, a nightlight, and a light on in the hallway. I also told her she could call out one time for reassurance but no more after that. We also did a reward chart- the first couple nights when she finally slept through I gave her a little treat in the morning for immediate gratification and a sticker towards a larger goal (picking out a toy). I know, this sounds like a million things and maybe overindulgent, and it probably was, but we were all desperate for sleep and basically not functioning- I was sick for 3 months straight during the worst of it due to exhaustion! Anyway, involving her in the process seemed to help and at least gave us a little more insight into her mind during this whole ordeal. Good luck, and I really hope you get some rest soon! Oh, we also got her an ok to wake clock and explained how important sleep is for our bodies/minds- I got a few picture books on the topic too- the llama llama goodnight one was good at that age.  

  • Help with my world-class whiner

    (34 replies)

    This is ironic because I spent years and a small fortune trying to have my daughter, but I don’t think hate is too strong a word for how I feel towards her these days. The problem in a nutshell is her interminable whining. It feels like 80-90% of her interactions involve whining. We’ve tried counting her, ignoring it, emotional coaching, positive discipline, labeling feelings, but are increasingly turning into people we don’t like when we look in the mirror... yelling, avoiding her, glowering at her, just turning and walking away.

    Yes, there are moments of joy (she was an angel at 3) but they currently don’t outweigh the dread I feel ten minutes before she wakes up in the morning. It’s all downhill from there. She’ll wake up bawling, because she “doesn’t want to be alone“ when I’m feeding the baby in the other room. Then I’ll ask her to get dressed and she’ll flatly refuse “No.” Then she’ll whine when I pick an outfit, and cry when I tell her to pick out her own. She’ll fall to the floor when I tell her to get dressed to join us for breakfast... “I can’t!” I don’t give in but she has nevertheless adopted a feigned helplessness. She’ll sometimes purposely trip while walking to garner sympathy. Just now she dropped the iPad saying it was “too heavy.” She has this annoying, high-pitched “damsel in distress” tone she defaults to, even though we’ve asked her a hundred times to use her “regular voice.”

    Teachers say they haven’t seen this side of her. We stayed with grandparents for 3 months during lockdown and even in their infinite patience noted they were disturbed by her bad behavior. I was mortified when she covered her ears when they advised her not to put her fingers in her mouth or scowl at them. Tell her not to show food in her mouth and she’ll squint at you and do it defiantly. Tell her to potty before a car trip and she’ll fight you tooth and nail. Twenty minutes after picking at her lunch she’ll whine that she “wants to eat something” and then repeat it for half an hour. Ask her to take a deep breath and she’ll whine “I don’t want to!” Show any interest in a song that’s playing, and she’ll sing the ABC song over it. Say it’s bedtime and she’ll run away, making you chase her down. Get her in bed and she’ll whine “I don’t want to sleep!” until she wakes up the baby. She doesn’t stay in bed, either. At her new post-reopening preschool the boys there chased her with a toy knife and called her cry baby. Frankly I had no sympathy left, and instead thought to myself that that sounds about right.

    Is this normal? A sign of teenage years to come? Or is she getting it out of her system? It wasn’t like this pre-COVID but we also had her in preschool full-time so were able to actually enjoy the few hours we had as a family each night.

    I really feel for you!  I had a similar experience with my now 17 year old son.  I finally resorted to bribery, er, motivation!  He had a simple reward chart based on trying to adjust his "negative interaction" habit.  He got his reward after dinner, which was some type of "fruit snack" candy.  If he had 0 to 2 negative interactions, he received 3 pieces. 3 - 5 negative interactions got 2 pieces, and more than 5 negative interactions meant he did not receive any.  Believe me, he went from literally hundreds of negative interactions a day down to around 2 a day.  And along with his change came LOTS of praise from me, as well as really trying to work with him on identifying his difficult feelings so that they weren't just ignored.  I really felt at the time that it was just a horrible attention-seeking ingrained habit.  But, he is also a kid who was diagnosed with depression in his pre-teens.  Kids with mental health issues still need to learn how to live in the world and not make every interaction a power struggle.  Best of luck!

    This sounds so frustrating and exhausting. I’m so sorry you’re going through this!

    My preschooler had some major mood swings and regressions when schools closed and he wasn’t able to go to the playground and interact with other kids. I’d you’re comfortable and can do so safely, finding ways for her to play with other kids or go back to preschool could help. My son just started preschool again and he’s back to his normal, happy self. 

    It also sounds like she’s attention seeking- maybe struggling with a new sibling? I would strongly recommend Janet Landsbury’s podcast for tips on how to handle whining, attention seeking, and dealing with a new sibling. 

    Best of luck, I hope some of this is helpful!

    Hi mama. I feel for you. Whining can be really grating on the nerves and I know I've been driven to my last wits during this time with less childcare support. You don't mention her age but you alluded to 3 being great, so I'm assuming shes 4-5? What you are describing is normal. Let me me repeat, this is completely normal!. Add in the stressors of COVID and staying with grandparents and a new baby and less preschool, and you both have even more reasons for both of your behaviors. But you are the adult in the situation who has more experience regulating your emotions. She does not. She has to learn and that doesn't come through punishment or loss of sympathy - quite frankly, the opposite works. You need to find more quality time with her, smother her with love and patience. Simply repeating back her feelings helps ("It's frustrating when something is too heavy", "It seems like you don't want to go to bed. I know sometimes I feel that way too. But it's time to rest our bodies".) You need to figure out what needs of hers aren't being met (likely it's individualized attention or simply the acknowledgement of change in her world and how hard this is). It sounds like you may also need some support as well to help you not become so easily flustered by normal childhood behavior and be in a better mindset to support her. Some books I recommend: "How to Talk so Little Kids Will Listen" or "No Drama Discipline". Books by Louise Bates Ames (such as "Your 4 Year old") are enlightening in regards to normal developmental behaviors (but they are also very old-school and mention spanking so take some of it with a large grain of salt). Talk to her pediatrician and if they are supportive they may point you in the direction of other parenting resources to support you. Reach out to your own OB and get screened for postpartum depression and have your partner, family, etc step in to help with the baby so you can have both alone time to recharge and 1:1 time with your older child. 

    I'm sending you lots of patience and strength. What you are describing is hard. But it's also completely normal for her to be acting this way and as a parent you will need to find out a way to nurture her through this phase. It will get better!

  • Where to go for kids to ride a bike

    (31 replies)

    I do not mean to offend anyone.

    We have strictly adhered to social distancing. I have not even taken kids out for a walk and we rely 100% on contactless delivery.

    When I tend to the front yard, I wear a mask.

    I am sad that my kid learned to ride a bike a week before the SIP order and his shiny new bike is sitting in the garage. He’s wobbly and isn’t a proficient rider yet. He keeps asking when he can go out and ride his bike again...

    We used to go to a local elementary school to practice riding. I think it’s closed now.

    Is there a good place to go to practice bike riding in Oakland/Berkeley/Alameda or do we just need to be more patient?

    We don’t have flat streets in our neighborhood to practice riding. Seriously regretting buying a house on a hill...

    Just walking around my neighborhood the past few weeks I've seen a few places that would be good for little kid bike riding but you'd probably need to park nearby and walk over with the bikes. The Claremont hotel is closed right now and their lower parking area is accessible to little kids on bikes - I saw some there today. There's a small employee lot in front and a larger one in back near the tennis courts. There are a lot of paved plazas on the UC Berkeley campus - maybe look on google maps for likely spots. Clark Kerr campus has some open areas near where the Cal Youth camps were held. Saw some tricycles and scooters there. Good luck!

    I would try Kensington Park (there is a small circular track excellent for learning how to ride, or empty basketball court), or one of many empty parking lots at various schools, etc. As long as you keep distance, you should give you intrepid bike rider a welcome respite from the long and difficult time at home. Good luck!

    There are many nearly empty parking lots to choose from - the BART stations, shopping areas, etc. Basketball courts are a good option too. There are several streets closed to through traffic in Oakland as well and those are decent options. I have seen some people in Berkeley put up signs in the street that kids are playing to “soft close” the block so their kids can practice riding in the street - not legal, but effective and frankly a better use of street space at this point.

    If you’re serious about physical distancing, I would not recommend the Bay Trail, Ohlone Greenway, or popular parks. Many people are still using those and they do not distance (and many are still not wearing masks either). Nor would I recommend sidewalks, they are too narrow for proper distancing. I’ve been taking my kids on residential streets in Berkeley and Oakland, but they were solid riders before the shelter in place started. I really wish Berkeley would soft close some streets like Oakland is doing to create an abundance of space for kids to walk and bike where there isn’t crowding. But the city doesn’t seem interested. 

  • My daughter's birthday party got cancelled this spring (like many many others) and she is understandably very sad over it.  Family is sending gifts to open on her birthday over video conference and she will get a song from family over video conference but it is not the same.  I want to get her a gift or several to make the birthday more special since she cannot get her normal big party and won't get the usual many gifts from friends. Any ideas of something special to get an 8 year old girl to cheer her up.  I want something more special than usual but as our usual gifts are outings or tickets to shows/event (which are no longer an option now and I don't want her to wait unknown amount of time to get to enjoy her gift) I cannot think of anything to get her now and she is not really into any of her toy sets so adding to a collection is not an option either. She has a lot of activities continuing over zoon and is over it so adding another cool activity over zoom is not an option.  I was considering getting her own ipad but not sure I want to have the argument about limiting screen-time when the device is hers though her own device is tempting with all the school work lately and i cannot think of anything else.  I know this is such a first world problem at this point but I really want to cheer up my little girl on her birthday.  Any ideas?  I know many birthday parties are cancelled so figured others might have done something special as well and maybe there is something big I'm missing. 

    I have a baby so not sure what the best present would be, but I read this and felt for your girl. I'm imagining transforming a room into another world (under the sea, fairy woodland, tropical luau, a scene from her favorite movie) with party decorations bought online and thematic takeout food, then have a scavenger/treasure hunt with a few small gifts leading up to one larger gift. Maybe something she can personalize so it still feels like an experience? Customized Keds, 'create your own' American Girl doll, a charm bracelet.

    You could also ask her friends & family to record little birthday messages sharing one of their favorite things about her and play these throughout the day. It'd be a keepsake when she's older and remembering how crazy this whole time was.

    Do you have space for something like a bounce house or trampoline?  A gift that offers a fun energetic break from all of the on-screen school time might feel special.  If she has some special friends you could ask the parents for a birthday "parade" where the kids drive or walk by your house (respecting 6 ft distance rules of course) holding signs and singing happy birthday.  Don't be afraid to ask - the other kids would probably love it too!  Finally, my kid's best friend had a zoom birthday party and all of the friends sent a gift the week before the zoom party where the birthday child opened all the presents.  I don't know where you are, but Five Little Monkeys is doing online orders and doorstep delivery.  There are also "quarantine birthday" t-shirts on Etsy - maybe it can help her feel like she belongs to a special club.

    Happy Birthday to your girl!  

    I find it sad that giving her a special event to do over Zoom isn't special enough so I'd encourage you to re-think that.   What about something like a guitar and some guitar lessons over Zoom or some other instrument?  What about talking with her about donating some money or toys in her name to more unfortunate 8 year olds?    I like the idea Jannan suggested about a theme room for a pretend day with a treasure hunt.   IClearly, you will need to talk with her about how so many kids are sad about their birthdays right now and she's not alone in that.   I know that it hurts to see one's child hurting and I think it's also OK and even important for them to experience disappointment.   Life is not about always getting everything one wants, unfortunately.   Maybe talk with her about how to make it the most special day possible given the circumstances.   Happy Birthing day to you!  

  • Hi BPN folks, hope everyone is finding ways to stay safe, healthy and supportive/be supported in this crazy time. Up until now, I have not really 'questioned' how I was explaining the pandemic to my toddler and preschool kids. I have been saying that there is a virus and that a lot of people are falling sick, so we must wash our hands and be careful not to touch our faces. Sometimes they will catch a glimpse of the news if I have it on, but I try not to have it on too much in their presence (anyway, they already get a lot of screen time these days!). When they clamor to go outside or see their friends, I tell them we have to stay home because a lot of people are sick (it's a bit like a broken record). When they see me with a mask outside, I tell them this is so that other people won't get sick. However, I have a friend who has chosen not to tell her school-age kids anything (they are all under 9) because they get very worked up and anxious - a choice that obviously fit her family better. It also prompted me to wonder though - how are other people managing to explain to their children what is going on and the reasons for the huge adjustments they've had to make? How do you balance telling a child about grave matters and the fear/anxiety that would surely arise from that? I have not noticed a huge difference in the behavior of my kids, but I just wonder what they must be thinking/feeling.

    I just saw something in the New York Times on this topic - when I went to look for it, I found lots of resources online (including videos). I'm not sure this was the article I was thinking of but it gives you an idea

    Our oldest is not quite 3 yet so we've been keeping it super bare bones. He already knew that "germs make you sick" and we've been telling him that we can't play on the playground, hug grandma, etc because we don't want to share germs so that no one gets sick. We have told him that there are a lot of germs right now, and when there are less germs we can go back to the playground, etc. I'm not sure he gets it, but he has stopped asking as many questions. I'm a little worried about what sort of ideas we're giving him generally about germs and human contact -- will he be forever afraid of getting too close to people? -- but we'll have to cross that bridge when we come to it. 

    This is very child specific and how ready they are to handle this emotionally.  I told my kids the truth since they are elementary and preschool aged and answered all their questions.  My preschool-aged one knows that there is a bad virus out there and that we are trying to keep us safe and keeping the grandparents safe and that is why he cannot go to their house now.  My elementary aged kids understand a bit more and asked about their chance of catching it and whether the elderly grandparents are at risk of dying and we told them their grandparents are at a much higher risk but are staying safe and that is why we cannot see them and do all their shopping for them, so hopefully grandparents will be ok.  They are a bit worried about elderly family members, but once they were reassured that even though there is risk grandparents are being very careful, are not saying that at least this means that they no longer need to go to school as they are loving this being at home time, and otherwise seem happy and ok emotionally.  I knew my kids will be ok which is why I shared a lot of details, but i would not have done it if I suspected that my kids will be weighed down by the worry over it and would be having a hard time dealing with the information.