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Resilience is our ability to bounce back from hard or challenging situations. Many different factors play into our ability to bounce back. The great news is that resilience can be developed, no matter our age. In the short video below, Jessi offers Tips for building resilience in older kids. 

Want more tips for building resilience in older kids? Check out our online parenting class, “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do.” In this self-paced class, you will learn about the brain and emotions as well as practical tips for helping our families learn to feel their emotions in healthy ways.

Resilience is our ability to bounce back when we encounter hard or challenging situations. As much as we would like to protect our children from anything bad happening to them, the reality is, that is impossible. Our ability to bounce back is both influenced by our biology as well as our experiences. During the foundational early years of life, there are lots of simple things that we can do to help grow our children’s ability to bounce back from the hard and challenging situations they will encounter today and in the years to come. Here are six tips for building resilience in young children. 

Tip #1 – Relationship is Primary

Stable and secure relationships are a basic need of all humans. We are not meant to do life alone and this is especially true in young children. Babies are completely dependent on their caregivers to meet all of their needs. As children grow, they start to go off and explore the world around them but need a safe, secure person to come back to. Watch your preschooler and you will notice how they will go off and explore but circle back to check-in with you. Knowing that you are there gives them the confidence to go out into the world.

Tips for Building Resilience

Tip #2 – Be Present not Perfect

Raising and caring for a human is one of the most challenging things most of us will do. I don’t know about you, but there are many times I feel incompetent and know that I didn’t make the best decision or react in the optimal way to my child. However, parenting is not about perfection. In fact, continuing to show-up for our kids, even when things aren’t going well or going back and repairing our relationship when we have overreacted helps to build resilience. When we do this, we are helping our kids learn that showing up is more important than always getting it right.

Tip # 3 – Rhythms and Routines

At Action Parenting, we talk a lot about being intentional with developing healthy rhythms for your family. Rhythms and routines provide structure and stability and they also help our children build their executive functioning skills. Executive functioning is a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. Developing strong memory, flexible thinking, and self-control skills help us manage our feelings and responses when we encounter hard or stressful situations. 

Tip # 4 – It’s Okay to Ask for Help

Independence is often seen as a sign of strength and in many situations it is. We want our kids to learn how to dress themselves, clean-up their rooms, and go to school on their own! However, we also want to know how to ask for help when they encounter something they don’t know. Life is full of new experiences and learning how to ask for what we need to move through the new experience is important. 

Tip # 5 – Build the “I can do hard things” Muscle 

Keeping with the theme of asking for help, building the “I can do hard things” muscle helps build resilience too. With preschool age children, you can do this by highlighting characters in books or shows that do hard things, recognizing their efforts to try hard things, and maybe even make-up a song or frequently repeat the phrase “I can do hard things!” Make it fun to tackle the hard stuff!

Tip # 6 – Practice Reframing

It’s easy to see what’s going wrong or what is not working. Help your preschooler learn to see both the hard and the positive in a situation. You might say “It’s really hard when we don’t get to play with the toy we want and we can be patient and wait our turn.” By doing this, you are helping build internal dialogue that will help them navigate all of the challenges life brings.

 

Want more tools for building resilience in your family? Our FREE online course, “Parenting in a Pandemic: Secrets for Survival” has practical tips for not just surviving but thriving in times of adversity. 

What is Resilience?

Resilience is our ability to cope with stress and hardship in a way that allows us to move forward rather than getting stuck and wallowing. Psychologist refer to it as our ability to “bounce back” after life has “knocked us down” and be even stronger than before.   

What is resilience

2020 tried to knock us to the ground! Life was very different just one year ago. Nobody anticipated a global pandemic disrupting every part of our lives, the inequalities  that would be profoundly exposed, or an election full of division and unrest. We did not know the challenges that would come our way.

And that’s how challenges work. We never know when they will come. Rarely can we anticipate the traumatic experience or chaos that will shake our worlds. And resilience is not anticipating or protecting ourselves from hardship. Rather its cultivating specific strategies that increase our capacity to withstand and learn from difficult and traumatic experiences. Resilience is strengthened by our self-awareness, mindfulness, self-care, positive relationships, and by seeking purpose and meaning. 

Why is Resilience Important In Families?

When my children were younger, a favorite response to any unsafe options was, “because one of my number one jobs as a parent is to keep you safe.” And yes, it is my role to do my best to provide safety and security for my children. However, it is impossible for me to protect my children from every danger or stress. 

One of the best gifts we can give our children is the ability to “bounce back,” even when they experience difficulty or trauma. Resilience improves learning and academic success, increases immunity, reduces risk-taking behaviors, increases family and community involvement, and boosts physical health. 

The challenges of 2020 will not be the only challenges we or our children will face. Just as we could not anticipate what 2020 would hold, we cannot anticipate 2021 or any other year. This is not meant to cause feelings of anxiety or stress but rather to encourage us. We’ve made it through a year like no other in recent history. We can do hard things! 

What Can Parents do to help?

Over the next few weeks, we will be exploring how to grow resilience in our families. Each week will offer tips and encouragement for fostering resilience not matter our age or previous experiences. That’s the great thing about resilience, it’s not just something you either have or don’t have. Resilience can be learned and cultivated so that no matter what challenges we face in the future, we have the resources to “bounce back.”

If you’re ready for more now, our online parenting class, “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do” is full of knowledge and tools for helping foster emotional health, one of the key components of resilience, in your family. Get the course today for just $75 and start your family’s journey to building more resilience.

 

What are your parenting goals for the new year? Maybe you are recognizing that things are just not working and you want to make some changes. It might be that you find yourselves yelling more often than you would like or bribing your child to get them to pitch in and help around the house. Maybe you have noticed that everyone is reaching for the cookies and chips more than the fruits and veggies. What’s it for you?

It’s not uncommon to think of our goals in the negative. “I want to stop…” Instead of focusing on what we want less of, it can be helpful to focus on what we want to experience more in our family. Here are 5 parenting goals for the new year that will set you up for success as a parent no matter what!

Parenting Goals for the New Year

Parenting Goal 1 –  Practice Presence over Perfection

Social media can be great for connecting us with friends and keeping up with our favorites. But if we are not careful, it can set us up for unrealistic expectations. A quick scroll through Facebook or Pinterest can lead to feelings of disappointment and discouragement. Suddenly my kids, house, and baking are not at the same level of perfection that everyone else seems to be attaining. 

When I’m feeling anxious or overwhelmed, it’s often because I’m living in the future. My mind is racing with thoughts of what others will think, what tasks I need to do, or how something will work out. My anxiety usually leads to chaos  in myself and in my family. The moments of “perfection” will not be remembered but rather the moments where we were present together, connecting over a shared experience or memory. 

Take a moment to stop and pay attention to what is right in front of you. Can see the beauty, even in the mess?

Parenting Goal 2 – Practice Gratitude Throughout the Year 

Did you know gratitude can help shift your attitude! It’s true. Research shows that people who regularly practice gratitude feel more hopeful emotions and enjoy more positive experiences. In addition, they overall experience better health, deal with adversity in positive ways, and build strong relationships. All of those sound like positive reasons to develop a regular gratitude practice as a family. 

Here are some ideas to help get started:

  • Set aside a regular time to share 1-2 things you are thankful for. Maybe during a family meal or as part of a bedtime routine.
  • Gratitude Jar: collect things that happen during the year in a jar.  Regularly take time to review what’s in the jar. 
  • Start writing thank you cards or intentionally verbally thanking people who have done something nice for you. 

Parenting Goal 3 – Practice Playing Together as a Family

Doing something fun together builds connection and safety within the family. It is easy to get going with all the things on our “to do lists.” Often play can get forgotten. Making playing together strengthens the family. It is easier to regulate and navigate the ups and downs of life when we feel safe and secure in our relationships. 

A great way to do this is to be intentional about finding some things to do together as a family. Maybe brainstorm some big things like a special trip/activity but don’t miss out on the small things like a dance party while making dinner or a quick 15 minute card game after school work is done for the day. These small moments of laughter and play can go a long way in our relationships with our kids. 

Want more? Register for our online parenting class, “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do.” The self-paced online parenting class is rich with research-based teaching on the brain and emotions as well as practical tips for meeting the emotional needs of all your family members.

Navigating the holidays with tweens and teens is not for the faint of heart. This time of year, it’s easy to find ourselves and our families in a swirl of emotions, conversations, and activities. Many of these conversations can lead to big emotions in our tween/teen and us as parents. As we look forward to the upcoming holidays, get some helpful holiday tips for parenting tweens and teens this year.

First holiday tip to keep in mind is that tweens and teens emotions are no joke! Their bodies and brains are in a constant state of change and growth. They can go from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows in a very short amount of time. Add in the strangeness of this holiday season, changing plans, holiday sweets, time with or away from family and friends and sometimes it can be overwhelming.

Here are some holiday tips for parenting tweens and teens to bring more peace and calm to your home. 

Tips for parenting teens and tweens during holidays

Talk Through Expectations

Everyone knows that things will probably look a little different this year, including much loved traditions. You may not be able to go to The Nutcracker or throw the big holiday party that you usually do. As an adult, you may have mixed feelings about these changes and chances are your child will too. Sit down and have a conversation about what will be different. Figure out what traditions are your child’s favorite. Talk about  alternative ways to make them happen. Allow them the space to be sad or excited about the changes.

Focus them Outward

Involve you children in focusing outward this season. Help them identify family members or friends to send some extra love to. Maybe they can pick out and wrap Christmas gifts for family members far away. Or take a day to bake cookies and drop them off at  friends houses. What about working together to come up with a unique way to thank their teachers this year. Including them in this process helps them focus on what they do have and can give rather than what they don’t.

Be Flexible 

As a parent of tween/teens this year I am learning to be just a bit more flexible, because everyone needs a bit more grace and breathing space right now. This might mean letting them stay up extra late for another movie night or letting them sleep in, even if it doesn’t fit your schedule. If they ask to try their hand at cooking (and possibly destroying the kitchen), maybe this is the year to allow them. Sometimes letting go of our own expectations can lead to beautiful moments of connection.

Want more help with big emotions any time of the year? Our course “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do” is full of research-based teaching on the brain and emotions as well as practical tips for the whole family on understanding and responding to our big emotions. 

 

Most often the words peace and preschoolers don’t go together, at least not when the preschooler is awake! The preschool years are frequently marked by intense emotions both from the preschooler and even their parents. 

Add in the anticipation of a holiday season full of presents, candy, and more and emotions can EXPLODE!

3 Tips for More Peace This Holiday

Let’s start by understanding a little bit more about how a preschooler both experiences and expresses their emotions and why. 

Language is rapidly developing during the first five years of life. By the age of five, children typically have an expressive vocabulary of 2,100 words. Take into consideration that the average adult knows between 20,000-35,000 words and it becomes obvious that younger children are still learning vocabulary and it’s not their primary form of communication. 

With words still a developing skill, children ages of 2-5 most often experience and express their emotions physically. If they see a toy at the store they really want, they fall to the ground crying rather than saying, “Man, I really want that toy. Maybe Santa will bring it. I can wait patiently.” Or if their brother or sister grab their new toy on Christmas morning, hitting rather than asking is the most “natural” response for a preschool child. Feeling excited by a new toy or relative coming for a visit and they may run crazy around the house, screaming at the top of their lungs rather than calming saying “This toy is so cool! I’m excited to play with it.”

It makes sense when we see it written down but experiencing it day after day as a parent can feel tiresome. It wears down our own emotional reserves leading to chaos and not a lot of holiday spirit. 

Here are 3 tips that can help bring more peace and less explosions to your home this holiday season.

1 – Prepare Your Preschooler 

Just because you have a preschooler doesn’t mean you have to give up the fun that doesn’t fit in a “normal” schedule. However, life can be much happier if you help prepare your preschooler for the changes. 

Talk about the new “thing” before it happens. If you are going to a special light display, talk about what they can expect before you go. Surprises can feel out of control so help by preparing your child for the “new thing” will help them feel more in control and know what they can expect.

You don't have to give up normal just because you have a preschooler

2 – Talk About Big Emotions.

As we talked about above, kids are learning a lot of vocabulary right now so the more we can give language to what they are physically expressing, the more likely they will be to use those words in the future. Before you try to stop or teach a more appropriate response to an emotion, name the emotion. It’s instinctual as parents to respond with “Stop that” or “No! Don’t do that.” It’s more helpful if we help our children understand what they are feeling by providing them language for it. You might say something like “You are feeling really frustrated that your sister isn’t doing what you want her to do.” or “Wow! You are feeling really excited about going to look at Christmas lights!”  

3 – Offer Choices

It’s common to feel big emotions when we are feeling out of control. Whenever possible, offer your preschooler choices. This can be something like asking, “Which Christmas PJs do they want to wear, the green ones or the red ones?” Or if your family is trying to enjoy a holiday meal with limited “preschool approved foods” and you might offer them a choice like “Do you want to try 2 bites or 3 bites?” or “Do you want to try turkey or mashed potatoes?” Choices help our preschoolers feel more in control of what is going on.

Want more help with parenting and big emotions? Our self-paced online parenting class, “Big Emotions and What Parents Can Do” will help you understand more about how the brain and emotions work together and gain helpful tools you can start using today to bring more peace to your family. Sign-up today for our sale price of just $75 or play our “Holiday Family Fun List” Contest to win a free class!

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.

Tips for building resilience in older kids

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.

Tips for building resilience in older kids