is your kindergartener a mess from Covid
Photo courtesy Jess Dreaming Photography

Is it me, or are the kindergarteners really struggling this year? I have three kids — my youngest is in kindergarten — and the struggle is real. He’s hitting kids, siblings, teachers, and parents. He’s spitting on the bus. He’s showing his bum to his classmates at recess. Halfway into the school year, this is my kid. 

It is making me seriously second guess my parenting skills. I am stumped. The typical discipline methods do not seem to be effective. Time outs lead to major screaming tantrums. Taking screens away turns into him begging for someone to play with him — and nonstop “Mom. Mom! MOM!” all day. One day I told him he wouldn’t get any dessert that night because of misbehavior, and after dinner he reminded me, “Do not forget I lost my dessert because I was hitting again.” He clearly wasn’t bothered. Thanks for reminding me, kid, and now we know this is another ineffective consequence.

I really do not let him get away with this bad behavior. I can almost always remain calm and neutral, but I am reaching my breaking point.

I recently got an opportunity to talk to our elementary school principal. (She called me because my kindergartener had been taken off the bus for hitting other kids.) I asked her why so many kids are struggling, and her response was thought provoking: “COVID killed connection.” It sounded like such a simple concept. But it is truly complicated.

We all know each child is an individual. Some have anxiety or are shy. Others are very active and need frequent movement opportunities. For more than two years we were all put in an extremely challenging situation. Yes, the kids are resilient, but they are not robots. They were disconnected from extended family and friends. They had limited access to school. Some children never got to practice or develop the skills needed to make positive connections with others. And now, when they’re seeking those connections, they don’t know how to go about it. They need patience, time, and compassion. 

I felt hopeful after hearing that phrase: “COVID killed connection.” We can remedy this. We all want to move on and forget the pandemic. We are ready to put it behind us. However, we must be mindful that even though today’s kindergarteners were 2 years old in March 2020 and may not remember the lockdowns, they still experienced an atypical few years. They are still catching up and may just now be learning skills they would have been exposed to much earlier if not for the pandemic.

So where do we go from here? Let’s prioritize connecting with our kids and each other’s kids. We can model patience and kindness. We can give them grace and support. We can show them empathy and understanding. We can make up for lost time and help our little ones develop the important skills they’re lacking. It’s not too late. 

Leah Lynch
Leah was raised in Greater Boston, where she met her husband in 2006. They moved to North Carolina for a few years before deciding their hearts were still in Massachusetts. Leah is a stay-at-home mom and has three children — boy, girl, boy — born in 2011, 2014, and 2017. Her oldest son in autistic. Children with disabilities — and the families raising them — have a special place in Leah's heart. She loves "The Office," date nights, tacos, U.S. history, and the beach. She enjoys sharing her experiences of motherhood, the good and the difficult, to encourage other moms that they are not alone. Loves: Great food (mostly made by her talented husband), playing with the kids, the beach, date nights, The Pats, The Sox, The B’s, new socks and bras, and American history, and movies. Can’t stand: Cotton balls, weeds, broken crayons, and country music