For Parents and Everyone Else Struggling at Home: Operation Letter of The Day

Hello friends, we made it to Wednesday! If you didn’t know it was Wednesday, no judgement here, I’m starting to get my day and evening pajamas confused at this rate.

How are you feeling? Stir crazy? Worried? Overwhelmed? Frustrated that you’ve already eaten all of the ice cream you panic purchased last week? Thankful for Dr. Tony Faucci and the guidance he’s providing for all of us in this complicated time? Scared that your sore throat is a symptom of COVID-19? Frightened for the people who are sick with it now? I see you. 

And I have some ideas. Those of you familiar with my professional work know that I’m solution focused. You may also know that I began my career in education, counseling, and coaching more than twenty years ago by teaching learning processes like reading, writing, comprehension, and critical thinking to children and adults of all ages.

The work that I did was one-on-one with clients, and I would generally see 7 to 8 different clients for an hour every day. I would go on to train others to do this work, breaking it down and explaining both the process and the psychology of learning.

In these sessions and trainings I grasped the differences between learning and teaching, as well as the need for learning to be fluid, flexible, and filled with positive reinforcement. This means meeting each student where they are, rather than where you believe they should or could be. 

Confidence is the antidote to shame.

And confidence is developed over time, built up and strengthened through small manageable challenges that lead students to become engaged and want to succeed.

In this spirit, I have come up with a plan based simply on the alphabet. Many of us grew up watching Sesame Street and if you did, you might remember that each episode was sponsored by a letter. I’m Shelter-ing in Place with some friends and one of them just happens to be three (3) years old. 

Beyond lots of tea parties and arts and crafts fun, we’ve been practicing letters and the sounds they make. The other morning, while I was explaining that the letter G is flexible because it’s a letter that can make two sounds – there’s a “soft g” sound (giraffe, gentle, gem) and a “hard g” sound (goat, gum, gap) – and that we have to be patient and take the time to figure out which sound the G is going to make, I was inspired to use the alphabet as a framework for sharing strategies, resources, and tips we can all use to survive this pandemic.

It makes sense, right? We all know our ABCs. Could we be at this for 26 days? None of us really know. So we’ll get started and see where it goes. Each day, I (or my 3 year old letter expert, or maybe even Arthur) will pick a letter at random and it will be our inspiration and our guide. 

Yes, there will be resources and ideas for parents with children at home whose school year came to an abrupt halt. There will also be content for anyone struggling with what’s happening right now: single, married, parent, child-free, working from home, suddenly out of work, high schoolers, college students, pets wondering if they’ll ever get to have a secret daytime poodle party ever again. As one of my favorite humans, Jen Pastiloff says: I’ve got you.

So what’s next? Some pointers, guidelines, useful information, disclaimers. 

  1. First, I have a practical tip everyone can use: WHY questions make people defensive and can cause them to shut down. 

Think about it. If I ask you, “Why are you wearing that unicorn mask with your tuxedo t-shirt and a hula skirt?

You’re probably not going to feel great about it. Your response is not likely to lead to any kind of productive discussion.

But if I asked you instead, “Hey buddy, what made you decide to sport your unicorn mask with your tuxedo t-shirt and a hula skirt?” Your brain hears this as a request for information, not an emotional response. You might like that I showed an interest and explain it to me. Or at the very least not storm out of the room.

Instead of asking “Why…” you can try:

  • “What made you want to…’
  • “What was it you were trying to accomplish by…”
  • “What was the point…”
  • “What were you thinking when…”
  • “What did you want…”
  • “How do you feel…”
  1. While the information I share is intended to be helpful, if you feel you (or someone you care about) are in crisis, please:
  • CALL the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It is a free, 24-hour hotline, at 1.800.273.TALK (8255). Your call will be connected to the crisis center nearest to you. 
  • Or TEXT Crisis Text Line. They serve anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information. In the US text 741741, in Canada text 686868 or 741741, and in the UK text 85258.
  • If you are in an emergency situation, call 911 immediately and they will help you with next steps.
  1. I understand that we all have different backgrounds and experiences. What I’m sharing are things I’ve learned, found helpful, and utilized with clients. Not all of them may work for you. You may have some better ideas. I’m excited to hear your ideas. Please share. Build on what I provide and let me know how it’s going. If something was frustrating or didn’t work we can team up and see if we can tweak it or find another solution. Bottom line: BE KIND. I know things are difficult right now for so many people in so many different ways. Kindness matters now more than ever.
  1. I’ll be posting word lists – sight word reading lists and vocabulary lists. I’m happy to share them and links to others. You can utilize the strategies I provide for these lists and create your own. What’s important to keep in mind is that most people can learn and retain 9 to 11 new things at a time. Try to stick to learning no more than 11 new words a day. There’s no need to panic and attempt to learn all the words on day 1 or even by day 26. The goal of this is to improve knowledge of sight words or vocabulary, increase reading skills, and maybe have some fun while doing it.
  1. Lastly, places you can find me. To see more content, to tell me you love what I’m doing, to ask me to address a specific issue you are really interested in or concerned about, to show me that you’re picking up what I’m putting down, to set up a one-on-one coaching or therapy session, to just say hi: email is leahylearning (at sign) gmail dot com. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin links are all above this post. Phone/Text is 484-222-0272. If someone wants to help me learn how to use SnapChat or anything else I’m missing, Iet me know and we can set them up too.

This post is going up pretty late so I’ll give you a little inside information. Tomorrow’s letter of the day is: the letter G

Tune in to see how it all works. 

Until then, take good care of yourselves! Xo Meg

Published by Meg Leahy, MS, NCC, BCC

An award-winning educator, author, and counselor with certifications in life, leadership, and career coaching, Meg believes in providing the skills, understanding, and resources to help people change their lives. Named a "Woman of Note" by the New York Times, and Best of Philly by Philadelphia Magazine, she also writes about ADHD, mental health and wellness, is the co-author of peer-reviewed textbooks on ADHD, and is the ¡Live Mas! In-House Life Coach at Taco Bell Quarterly.

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