Jacqueline Cortez-Paz is a stay-at-home mom of three kids in South Los Angeles who struggles with depression and anxiety. The COVID-19 pandemic has made things even worse.
Perla Montenegro is a mother trying to do her job at home. Her husband was furloughed from his job due to COVID-19. He helps with their little boy, Ryan, who is always jumping around and vying for her attention.
Like many parents sheltering at home during the pandemic, the two mothers connected recently on Zoom. Unlike other chats between parents, however, this was a virtual home visit between a parent educator, Perla, and her client, Jacqueline.
Since the pandemic began, First 5 LA has pivoted in its approach to enable televisits with its home visiting partners such as Shields for Families. With the help of First 5 LA, Shields for Families has been able to continue its home visits by phone and through online platforms like Zoom. This enables Perla and other home visitors to provide clients like Jacqueline with important parenting guidance and connection to resources that are more critical than ever during this pandemic.
Perla and Jacqueline recently allowed First 5 LA to shadow their first virtual home visit, which centered around Jacqueline’s two-year-old daughter, Daisy. We join them as they talk about Daisy turning 3 in July and how to celebrate during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Perla: What are you planning to do for her birthday?
Jacqueline: We’re hoping to do a bounce house. Hopefully, everything will be fine by then. If not, we’ll be singing to her inside the house with a birthday cake.
Perla: Is there anything you’ve noticed Daisy has been really interested in lately?
Jacqueline: She’s starting to like arts and crafts, like her big sister.
Perla: That’s really cool. Because in the first three years of their life, her brain will have more growth than any time of her life. And right now, she is probably going through what they call an open window, where her brain is just ready to absorb and learn and make connections. That’s when you see them very interested in one thing or repeating a lot of things, like going up and down the stairs. So it’s really cool that you notice what she is interested in.
Jacqueline: Yeah. Okay.
Perla: What did you do today?
Jacqueline: Today we did a lot of cleaning. We bought her washable markers. She doodled everywhere except for the paper. (laughs)
Perla: That’s cool because you as a parent are the most important teacher. So by providing things and letting her explore and experiment, she’s learning. And she’s obviously very smart. You remember the paper dolls where she can dress them up?
Jacqueline: She made them. There’s an African American one. She made the light one Perla and the brown one Jessica, her caseworker.
Perla: She’s learning that people are different shades. That’s great.
Perla: Has there been anything about her that’s been worrying you?
Jacqueline: She’s been aggressive when she’s not allowed to do something she wants to do. She’ll bite your hand or hit you or kick you.
Perla: I’m sure you’ve tried to talk to her and explain what she’s feeling by saying, “I know that you are angry.” Does it help her calm down?
Jacqueline: Not always. She’ll say, “I’m not your friend anymore.” Then she goes into a little cabinet and she hides in it.
Perla: So that’s her space.
Jacqueline: If I go in there after her, she will still do a tantrum. I let her have her space and she’ll come back and say, “I want to be your friend now.” Or she will say, “I’m sorry.”
Perla: What you’re doing with the cabinet is saying, “I see you are upset” and you are giving her space.
Jacqueline: (Smiling proudly) Yeah.
Perla: Anything else?
Jacqueline: We only have one TV at home. If they start hogging the TV, I tell them to share. Then Daisy comes along and says, “I want Lion King.” I tell her we’re taking turns.
Perla: Have you ever tried making a TV chart? Where you put the name and their time for TV? Something visual for her to see that everybody has TV time and you have to wait for your turn.
Perla: I’ve heard you talk to Daisy. You don’t talk to her like a child. You talk to her like she’s a person. That’s really good. Anything else?
Jacqueline: My husband spoils her all the time. Sometimes in the car, she will cry and say, “I want the seat belt on.” I say, “No, you have to be strapped in your car seat.” My husband will say, “Why don’t you unstrap her?” I say, “If I unstrap her, she will get off the seat.”
Perla: What you are doing is good. Because if you say no and her dad says yes, it’s only going to get worse as she gets older.
Jacqueline: Even now, when her dad’s home, she thinks, Ok, I’m going to be able to do whatever I want. She throws toys at people. I tell her she can really hurt someone. I think if she learns it’s okay to hit and throw things, she’s going to do it when she goes to preschool. She’s going to get that bully behavior and she thinks she can get away with things and no one is going to hit her back. Then someone is going to hit her.
Perla: Have you told her, “If you can’t be responsible with your toys, we’re going to put them away until you learn how to be?”
Jacqueline: No. I haven’t.
Perla: Maybe you can work on it now because you’re at home with her. If she keeps throwing the toys, tell her you are going to put the toys away.
(At this point, Daisy bounds into the room. She sees Perla on her mom’s screen.)
Daisy: Hi Perla!
Perla: Oh, you’re so big Daisy! You’re growing so well! I miss you.
(Daisy smiles broadly. She asks Perla to bring Paw Patrol toys the next time she can visit in person. Then she bounds out of the room again)
Jacqueline: She’s afraid of taking a shower. I’ve been able to bathe her in the tub. And when we take her to the toilet, she cries and says, “It scares me!” She doesn’t tell me why. When she was little, she was afraid of the flushing. Sitting her on her little toilet in the bathroom, she just cries. She won’t pee or poop unless you put on a diaper. Then she goes in the diaper.
Perla: Maybe it’s the noise.
Jacqueline: I’m thinking that’s what it is. But the toilet here at the house doesn’t make a lot of noise.
Perla: Have you ever told her you were going to put her toilet somewhere else?
Perla: Also, when you take her to the shower, do you have the handheld showerhead you can bring down?
Perla: I’m going to get you one. It has different settings, so it has low pressure. See how she reacts. Maybe she is scared of the water pressure, like she is going to drown. Babies don’t like water in the face. Has anything happened to her where she was afraid of water?
Jacqueline: She’s been afraid of water since day one. We got her a little kid pool and she didn’t like it. For her second birthday, we wanted to do a water theme, but she didn’t want it. But she’s not afraid if you get a bucket and put in her toys. She’s okay with splashing water.
Perla: Ok. How’s everything at home with food?
Jacqueline: The food stamps and WIC I get are very helpful. We also get the grab-and-go meals from the district. They cut my husband’s hours at work. It’s less in the paycheck.
Perla: That makes a big impact on your family budget. I can send you other resources, too. How are you doing with diapers?
Jacqueline: I’m running low on wipes and diapers.
Perla: I’ll ask for wipes and diapers. We can deliver them. What’s Daisy eating?
Jaqueline: She likes anything that is made with tomato sauce. She likes noodles.
Perla: You should try making your own pizzas at home. During this age right now, they are starting to learn when they are hungry, when they should eat.
Jacqueline: Whenever we eat, she eats something. But very little.
Perla: That’s ok. You don’t have to pressure her. The doctor said she is doing good. And seeing her, she looks happy and very healthy. She is an active child. I’m sure she’s in different parts of the house, yes?
Jacqueline: Yes, She jumps on the bed and I get a little worried. We have to lock the front door because she can get out.
Perla: I can imagine. Everything she sees, she is learning. There’s going to come a time where she learns to open doors. Again, their brains are like sponges. They are just learning everything right now.
Perla: Is there anything you need or any more questions for me?
Jacqueline: No. Thank you!