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With the holidays around the corner, it’s a great time to set aside some time to play together as a family. Yes, you heard me. Play!

Play is an important part of health not just physically but emotionally and intellectually as well. And it’s not just for kids!. Did you know that play releases an important hormone oxytocin both in us and in our kids? Oxytocin is an important chemical that plays a major role in bonding as well as social and emotional regulation. Play helps us not only feel good, it strengthens our connection and relationships!

To help you and your family create some special memories this year, we’ve put together a “Holiday Family Fun Bucket List” for you. It’s full of fun and simple ideas for play and making memories together with your family. In many of our cities, the typical holiday experiences are limited or cancelled so we’ve focused on activities that you can do at home. If any supplies are needed, they are easily found around the house or during a quick trip to the store. We encourage you to pick one, two, or more activities to do together as a family. 

BONUS!!!!!TAKE a picture of you and your family playing together, POST it by December 31, and TAG Action Parenting (@actionparenting) in the post and you will be entered into a contest to WIN a FREE registration for our new online parenting class “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do.” Yes, we want to see how our online community of families play and we want to reward you for playing! I think there might be some extra benefit for play with a reward?!?!  

The holidays often bring lots of big emotions in ourselves and in our kids and even more so this year. Join Jessi as she offers some tips for meet the needs of everyone’s big emotions well during these holidays.

Want more knowledge and tools on addressing big emotions in your family? We’ve got a self-paced online course for you! Check out “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do” today.

Jessi Sigander Bio

We were running late. We were always running late. 

My oldest was in kindergarten and my youngest did not possess the same passion for being on time as my oldest did. So when it came time to pack everyone up in the morning to drop big brother off at school, the youngest was found, without his shoes on, playing with toys rather than getting ready. And on this particular morning, I’D HAD IT! 

I was done fighting the battle of the shoes! I just wanted to get in the car and WITHOUT A BATTLE! 

Was that too much to ask?!? 

The thing that sticks out in my memory was how irrational I felt. I was yelling, making threats, taking away every toy and every privilege, and I still felt unheard! I literally threw my kids in the car, started it up immediately, and put the car into drive. The cry of my youngest saying, “MOM! I’m not buckled!” brought me back down to reality. I remember looking back at my kids and seeing the panic in their eyes. Thankfully we were still in the driveway and no one was hurt but it was a wake-up call for me. Something needed to change 

I wonder if you can relate? As I think back on that particular season, I recognize that in addition to the “normal” parenting challenges, our family was in a season of transition that was really hard. I felt uprooted and out of control not just as a parent but in many other big and little decisions. It was all I could do to get up in the morning.

Big Emotions and Parenting

Our behavior is Telling Us Something

Everyone’s behavior, big and little people, is telling us something. When we slow down and pay attention, we usually find that behavior is telling us that we have a need. When we are experiencing big emotions that feel overwhelming and could be seen as negative, it’s time to stop and evaluate whether we are ignoring a need or we lack the skills to meet that need.  

When I was feeling rage because my child was not putting on their shoes and getting in the car on my timetable, my unmet need was for control. I was feeling out of control in so many areas of my life and that morning, I was low on patience and high on attempting to control whatever I could!

Learn to Regulate My Own Emotions First

The look of panic in my children’s eyes reminded me that I cannot help my kids regulate their own emotions until I regulate my own. I’ve seen this on repeat not only in parenting but in other important areas of my life. When I am responding from the thinking, rational part of my brain, I am able to respond to my children’s big emotions in ways that help them learn to address their own big emotions in healthy ways. However, when my own thinking, rational brain is offline, both my child and myself spiral into fight/flight/freeze responses.  

Model My Own Regulation

When I feel myself moving from my rational, thinking brain to my emotional brain, I can model what I’m doing to regulate myself for my children. I might say, “I’m having a lot of really big emotions right now and I need to take (fill in the blank: 5 deep breaths, 2 minutes to cool down and I’ll come back, etc.) By verbalizing my own process I am modeling for my children what it looks like to regulate my emotions and I am normalizing the experience.

Repair the Rupture When My Big Emotions Get Out of Control

Parenting is not about being perfect all the time. I have years of training and education around parenting and emotions and I still have moments where my big emotions take center stage in my parenting. Instead of ignoring and moving on, I am intentional about going back and repairing the rupture in the relationship that my big emotions have caused. It’s not an excuse but I want to verbally acknowledge to my kids that I know my response was big, out of control, and potentially hurtful. 

It’s easy for me to want to justify it with addressing whatever behavior tipped me over the edge but I want to be careful not to make their change in behavior feel conditional to my ability to control my own emotions. It’s simply to recognize and repair the relationship. We can address their own lacking need or skill separately.

Want more tools on parenting big emotions? Our new course, “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do” launches this week and is full of practical knowledge and action steps you can start taking today! You can get more information here and on our Facebook Group.

 

What a week, month, and year of big emotions for all of us! Last week we talked about supporting big emotions in young children and this week we are sharing some tips and tricks for supporting big emotions in older kids and teens. 

No matter the age of our kids, their moods and emotions will rise and fall. As our children grow, we want to provide them with more tools to develop their knowledge of how to handle big emotions both now and later in life. Below are three tips on how to help older kids learn to ride the waves of emotions.

Big Emotions and Older Kids

1 – Validate their emotions: 

Our older can have so many strong reactions to different situations in life, both old and new. Often what they are looking for more than anything, is acknowledgement that however they are feeling is valid and ok. It’s also important to give them the space to express those feelings. This doesn’t mean you may agree with how they are feeling or handling a situation, but simply that you hear what they are saying and acknowledging that it’s ok to feel this way. Validating big emotions is a great way to begin to diffuse them. 

2 – Help them to figure out their triggers: 

As an adult I know what can easily trigger me (feeling like I have no choices left or control). Our kids can be triggered by many different things.  During the tween and teen years there are so many things that can trigger kids that they might not even be aware of from the pressures at school, to friends, to figuring what is next in life.  

Help your kids figure out what might be triggering them by asking questions that they can’t just say yes or no too. Rather than asking are you angry, ask what makes you angry? Where do you feel the anger in your body? How do you know when you are getting angry?Teaching kids to understand what can trigger them is an important step in helping them realize when they need to start regulating themselves. 

3 – Teach them how to self-regulate: 

The most powerful thing we can do to help kids learn how to self-regulate is to model it in our own behavior first, then begin to have conversations around identifying what can help calm our kids down. Help your child begin to practice some activities that may help them regulate their emotions before they are caught in the midst of big emotions. 

Simple things can help our kids from deep breathing, to having a snack, to lighting a candle or taking a hot shower. All of these things help to calm our nervous systems down. Ask your kids what already helps calm them down (they probably have some great ideas) and use that as a jumping off point.

These are just a few tips to get you started in addressing big emotions in your older kids. If you want more, we are launching a brand new online parenting class on this topic called “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do.” In this class you will get more knowledge about what is happening in the brain as well as more in depth teaching around validation, identifying triggers, and how to teach kids to regulate. The course launches November 16. Be sure to join our Facebook Group for more information.

Jessi Sigander Bio

The preschool years are a time of lots of really big emotions both for parents and for kids! Join Hannah this week to talk about why preschooler’s emotions are bigger, louder, and more physical than in other time of life and some practical tools to help your preschoolers and you learn to communicate the big emotions in healthy ways.

What more help for parenting big emotions? We are launching a new course, “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do.” In this course, you will learn about the brain and emotions along with practical things you can start doing in your family today to bring more peace. The course will be available November 16th. Make sure you’ve joined our Facebook Group to get all the details.

Hannah Benedict
 

Parenting a preschooler during a pandemic is probably not something you ever imagined you would be doing. The preschool years can be challenging for parents even in more traditional times and the added stress of COVID can create new experiences and challenges for the parent of a preschooler. 

For many of us, the typical daily activities of life with a preschooler have been limited by restrictions. Those activities that are open are filled with social distancing rules and regulations that can be challenging explaining to a preschooler and help them follow. On top of that, every family has different needs and therefor different practices to keep them safe and a preschooler struggles to see or understand anyone or anything outside their immediate experience.

What’s a parent of a preschooler to do?!?! 

Watch the video for 3 time tested and proven techniques for parenting a preschooler in a pandemic and all the other things that go along with the preschool years. 

 

“Mom, I can’t sleep” is a phrase I have heard off and on during my parent journey, but never so much as I have these past few months. I have two kids who have experienced different sleep challenges all throughout their lives. One of my kids could fall asleep in the middle of chaos and noise while the other struggles to fall asleep, even in the ideal sleep setting. 

The strangeness of living through a pandemic has impacted our life in a million little ways, including our sleeping schedules. Maybe it started with a later bedtime that’s made mornings start later and later. It could be a body that’s not getting as much physical movement during the day and just isn’t as tired at night. For some, the anxiety coming from the changes and unknown future catch-up once the lights turn off and it gets harder and harder to fall asleep. With so many differences in our day to day living right now (school from home, work from home, socialize from home)etc. a consistent sleep schedule can easily get lost. 

Tips for healthy sleep patterns

Consistent sleep is important for both the physical and mental health of each person in your family. Healthy sleep increases our immunity, keeps our bodies regulated throughout the day. A lack of good sleep can cause increased stress response and we can see an increase in irritation, forgetfulness, difficulties learning, and challenges in taking in new information. Poor sleep can negatively impact one’s experience of depression and anxiety. A lack of sleep overtime can also impact one’s experience of depression and anxiety. 

Sleep is important and taking time to evaluate your family’s current sleep rhythms for what’s working and what’s not is important to the overall health of the family. Here are some easy and simple actions you can take that can help get you and your kids back on a healthy sleep schedule. 

  1. Talk through anxieties that come up during the day, so that they are not all waiting for nighttime to pop up 
  2. Maintain a consistent bedtime and wake up time each day
  3. Develop an evening routine for you and your kiddos. Start at least an hour before bedtime and turn off the screens, it really does help! 
  4. Get active during the day, it will help your body be ready to sleep at night. This is especially important for our kiddos who may be sitting the majority of their day in front of a screen for school. 
  5. Limit the consumption of sugary or caffeinated foods or drinks before bed 
  6. Sleep before you get overtired- sometimes kids can struggle to fall asleep when they get overtired. A simple thing such as moving their bedtime forward by 30 minutes may help them fall asleep before they reach the overtired stage of the night. 

We all know that life is going to happen, and there will just be some of those days when falling asleep is hard. Our hope for your family is that this doesn’t become the norm and that you all can start finding some consistency once again! 

We’ve got more simple steps for not just surviving but thriving as a family right now. Register today for our FREE online parenting class “Parenting in a Pandemic: Secrets for Survival.” It’s full of helpful information about the impact of anxiety on the brain and body and simple survival tips that you can start using today with your family.

 

As kids grow, their connections and interactions with people outside of their families grow. The pandemic has drastically changed many of these social interactions from school to sports to hanging out with friends. As parents, we are not only attempting to navigate all these changes for ourselves, but for our kids as well. Nobody has done this before and it can feel overwhelming to know how to even help our kids.

This week, Jessi is sharing four things that she’s found helpful in parenting her kids during this time. They’ve made a difference in her family and maybe one or more of them can be helpful to you. Watch the video below to get four tips on how you can help older kids navigate social situations during a pandemic.

Want more tips for not just surviving but thriving as a parent during a pandemic? Register for our FREE parenting class, “Parenting in a Pandemic: Secrets for Survival” today!

 

#1 – The Unexpected CAN Happen, AND We Will Survive

If you told me last September that school would suddenly be forced to move to a virtual platform, that we would spend over six weeks quarantine at home, that I would not be spending my fall cheering on the sidelines of the football field, I would have laughed. 

I really want to be able to promise my children that A+B always equals C but reality is so many things influence our experiences that we have no or limited control over. If I structure our lives around trying to cling to the assurance of specific things happening, we will be disappointed. It’s not that that I don’t think it’s important to dream and have a vision for the future we want. I absolutely believe that’s important. Dreams and goals move us forward into thriving and healthy life. However, the pandemic has once again taught me that I can make plans, dream, and continue show-up in the present moment, no matter what is going on. 

#2 – Rhythms are Important

When our typical rhythms flew out the door in the spring, I quickly learned how valuable it is for our family to have some type of structure. By nature, I push back against regulated structure. I don’t like to make lots of future plans, I hate being told I have to something at a specific time, and if every day of my week is the same, I start to burnout quickly. 

However, I have learned that it’s important for my family if we can give a little structure to our unstructured life. For example, going for a walk in the evening together is important. However, some nights we go before dinner other nights we go after dinner. It’s a rhythm that changes depending on the needs of the day. 

5 Things I've Learned While Parenting in a Pandemic

#3 – What I Focus on Is Significant

In the first week of quarantine, I was struggling to fall asleep, stay asleep, and waking early in the morning. My mind was loud with worry and anxiety was screaming at me constantly. After four days of limited sleep, I knew something had to change. 

First, I cut back on my intake of the news, specifically in the evenings. Then I started a nightly gratitude practice. I wanted to be mindful of the good things that happened each day within the chaos and crazy. There are some days that the gratitude flows freely and making a list of 4-5 things is easy. Other days  it feels like a stretch, and I am grasping for the smallest things. But even on the hardest days, there is always something and by focusing on even the small things, it brings peace in the midst of the chaos.

#4 – Play Makes Everyone Happier 

Yes, we can all agree that our kids need to play. It’s not only important for them physically, but they are learning about themselves and their world through play. In this season I’ve been reminded how important it is for me, as the parent, to play as well. To play with my kids and to play as an adult. Sometimes it’s as simple as turning up the music and dancing around the kitchen while making dinner. Other times it’s responding to a cranky kid playfully rather than with exasperation and annoyance. And it’s not just playing with my kids, in the midst of all the demands and crazy of work and parenting, it’s creating moments to do the things that bring a small to my face and laughter to my lips. 

#5 – We Need Our People

I’ve always known that I do better when I’ve got safe and healthy people that I’m doing life with on a regular basis but this time of pandemic has reminded me how important it is for me and for my family. We all have different levels of need when it comes to connecting with people. Some of us need a lot. Others, it’s less. Wherever you are on the need scale, if we are completely isolated from other human connection, life gets really hard. So I encourage you to reach out to your people and stay connected. Because together we are better not only individuals but parents. And our kids need us. 

We hear you parents and are offering a FREE gift to you right now. Our self-paced, online class, “Parenting in a Pandemic: Secrets to Survival,” is full of knowledge and survival skills that will help you not just survive but thrive through this season. Click here to get access to the class today!

– The Power and Need For Connection. –

Last week I found myself in a place where I was just done! DONE WITH ALL OF IT! 

And I had a little melt down that went like this…I CANNOT KEEP DOING THIS! …all of this!

Pandemic fatigue- It seems like there is no end in sight!

Parenting 24/7- I can count on my hands the number of hours I have been away from my kids in these last 6 months and my goodness what I wouldn’t give to sit in silence for a while with no one needing anything from me! Can they just parent themselves for a bit? 

Schooling- Moving in between the role of parent vs. teacher is exhausting and hard and trying to balance that with other kids in the home or a job just adds up to not enough hours or patience in my day.

 Loss- The loss of lives, of normalcy, watching my kids continue to mourn the difference in life, it can all feel too overwhelming to keep moving forward.

Everything else- Fires, political overload, hurricane, social unrest, lost jobs, anxiety…and the list goes on

I realized quickly through the tears that I was on empty. I had nothing else to give anyone anywhere. I had been sucked dry with no replenishing and with nothing in the tank, I had nothing to give. 

There are lots of ways to take care of ourselves and fill ourselves back up. The one that stood out to me most was our need for connection. I needed to connect with my friends to let me cry a bit, tell me that what I’m feeling is completely normal, and then assure me that they are feeling many of the same things right now. Whether that was a Zoom call or a drink on a back patio to assure me that we were going to get through this together. I needed the security of a friend who reminds me that yes, it is absolutely hard, and that our kids really will be ok. Their childhood will not be ruined if we are able to trick or treat next month or if yell at them one more time for interrupting our work. 

So my fellow parent, I want to offer you encouragement today. You are not alone! Call on your community and let them know when it has just been one of those days! If you don’t have a community that you feel is safe enough to engage with, then let us know how you are doing and how we can support you! That’s why we are here, that is why connection with community is at the core of Action Parenting. 

 It’s ok to not be ok, and we are not created to do this alone! We are better together!

Have a good cry, link arms, and keep moving forward!