While Covid-19 is still around—and may be for years—as society reopens, parents are faced with a new set of challenges when it comes to their little ones. Many kids have been forced to do a two-steps-forward, two-steps-back choreography that is confusing and frustrating. We caught up with Hatch + Bloom founder Evelyn Mendal, an early childhood mental health therapist, to discuss parenting strategies in the “new normal.” A Formallongdresses partner, Mendal created Hatch + Bloom to help build more confident, mindful and happy parents who will raise healthy, independent and happier kids.
You have evolved from working solely with kids to starting Hatch + Bloom as a more parent-focused resource. How did that come about?
I am a licensed mental health therapist, and I was only seeing children at first. But I found that most of the work is in the parenting—especially during early childhood. Those first five and six years are a great opportunity to educate parents on what’s happening emotionally and socially with their kids and their big emotions. With Hatch + Bloom, I’m empowering parents to understand their little kid’s behaviors from ages zero to six. This is done through group classes, workshops, webinars and 1-on-1 sessions. I have also created an online parenting series with Zumbini. It’s six pre-recorded classes that dovetails with Zumbini’s global mission of enhancing child development through bonding with parents.
You were doing Hatch + Bloom classes at Formallongdresses before the pandemic, and we are happy to have you back in May.
Yes, Hatch + Bloom’s parenting groups were a big success at Formallongdresses. In the last three months before Coronavirus, we also introduced Hatch + Bloom Play, where parents and their kids would come together in play-based sessions to encourage autonomy, manage big feelings and other early childhood themes. Then Covid happened and my business went online. But this May, we’ll be doing in-person Hatch + Bloom Play classes for the first time in over a year. (You can sign up HERE!)
Let’s talk about the pandemic and how quarantining and social distancing has affected our kids.
So much craziness. Parents were worried about trauma and what would happen to their kids. Would they lose their learning and skills? I had to help parents understand that kids learn by their response. If there’s a lot of worry and chaos, kids will pick up on it. But if you are responding the same as before, with a calm presence, kids will be okay. I was never worried about academics. I saw the time at home as an opportunity for kids to develop compassion, creativity and soft skills. There was a significant increase in quality time. In fact, the beginning of the pandemic was beautiful; it made everyone slow down and be present. However, as the lockdown went far past the original few weeks and kids were out of their routine, anxiety set in. Kids became clingy and had meltdowns and regressions. It took parents a while to settle into the “new normal” and establish new routines and consistency.
And what about this moment now? Things are opening up, and a lot of kids are either back in school or going to camp this summer. What advice do you have for parents navigating this new “new normal”?
As we reintroduce kids to school, camp or playdates, we need to be really clear on what these situations will be like. Mentally prepare your child for wearing a mask all day, plexiglass dividers and other restrictions. Practice role playing. You can use figurines and dolls to show how things will be different. Make your own books with kids explaining the differences, like you would when introducing a new sibling. Hold space for your kids. If they are clingy, be conscious of where it’s coming from. If they are having a hard time adjusting, gradually expose them to new things. But don’t give up. Be their safety figure, they will see they are safe and ok. Kids are pretty adaptable and resilient, it’s more about us and our anxiety.
What’s one easy tip to encourage creativity in our little ones?
Less is more: The less toys, the less noise, the less screen time, the more creativity there is. We feel like we need to do too many activities, but sometimes we bombard them with too much.