Q: Last spring my daughter was in kindergarten when COVID hit. Her teacher was accessible and did her best to provide meaningful online learning, but mostly it was a stressful, difficult, emotionally draining experience. There was lots of tantruming, “stomach aches,” melting off of chairs, and other forms of non-cooperation. I am dreading this September; imagining a similar scenario with first grade. I’ve been scrambling to figure out options for pods, but nothing has panned out. Any advice for dealing with the anticipated drama?

A: Last year was a hot mess for many. Educators did their very best to build an airplane already in the sky, so to speak. The good news is they’ve learned a lot from that experience and had all summer to develop new ways of engaging younger kids. That said you may still have good days and bad days, so let’s talk about what to do on the bad days. Jessica Payne, our Early Childhood Clinician suggests using three important skills: 1) Empathizing – for example, “You are missing in-person school. Virtual school is tough! I hear you.”, 2) Mirroring – show her that you are present with her by mirroring her body language, for example cross your arms and scrunch your face to mirror her frustration , and 3) Narrate – give her the correct words. “I wonder if you are feeling frustrated, angry, or sad.”

Remember, you don’t need to fix everything that your daughter is feeling, in fact to do so is detrimental to her development. Your role is to provide a safe, nurturing space for her to work through her own emotions. Empathize with her and help her find the words. You’ve got this!