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.

How to Teach Teens to Make Decisions

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.

How to Teach Teens to Make Decisions

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.

How to Teach Kids Problem-Solving Skills
 

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.