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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.

Tips for Building Resilience
 

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! 

Have you noticed that some kids, whether they enjoy it or not, find school easy? They can keep themselves organized and on task. Challenges test them, but they naturally draw on their resources and get the help they need to move through the challenge. They seem to be naturally motivated. It’s easy to work with them. School does not feel threatening to them, and so they typically approach school and learning from the rational and thinking part of their brain.

But have you also noticed that for other kids, for a variety of reasons, school is very challenging? They struggle to keep things organized. Can’t remember what the teacher taught or the assignment they have been given. They often struggles to stay on task and complete assignments to the best of their ability. And I don’t know about you, but often times helping a reluctant learner feels like entering a battle zone! 

How to motivate a reluctant learner

For a reluctant learner, school or learning can feel threatening. Academically, they may be fighting against having a learning style that does not fit with a typical classroom or possibly socially they are struggling to make friends. Whatever their experience, learning or school does not feel safe, and they are quick to move from the rational and thinking brain to the primal brain that is responsible for protecting us from threatening situations. We see the fight/flight/freeze responses come out and often we, as their parents, are the primary target.

It’s exhausting. We want to give our children the very best start to life, we know that learning how to learn is an important part of this, and it’s defeating to battle over the one-page math assignment for hours on end only to know that you will most likely repeat the same battle very soon.

And the 2020-2021 school year is not giving us parents a break. As we engage more directly with our reluctant learners this school year, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve found helpful as I work with my own reluctant learner. 

Tip 1 – Schedule a Time

One thing I’ve learned in working with reluctant learners is that helping them when they are feeling frustrated and overwhelmed with learning rarely goes well. If I think about this from what’s happening in the brain, it makes sense. Often, when a child is frustrated or confused, their rational thinking brain has gone offline and their primal brain has switched on. Work flows a lot easier when we are working from our rational thinking brain. Scheduling a time to come back and work on the assignment or learning task when both of us are calm can really help things go a lot smoother. 

Tip 2 – Set a Time Limit

Have you ever noticed how much work you can get done when you have limited time? The same principle can work with kids. If a child feels like the work will go on forever, they will often drag their feet and get very little done. However, setting a specific amount of time that you will work on something can help. And a tip; check in with their teacher about adjusting expectations as well. Some teachers will adjust the length of an assignment or modify the tasks to help make expectations for manageable for someone who is struggling. 

Start with shorter amounts of work time and build up from there. By doing this, we are building academic stamina. Just like when you are training for race, you don’t start with the full length but rather work up in gradual increments. We can help our students build stamina by setting reasonable time goals and then gradually increasing as they master the first time goal.

Tip 3 – Validate their Progress

Validation is key to building self-esteem and internal motivation. Validation recognizes the struggle, names the emotions, and verbalizes the action or tools the person used to address the challenge they faced. For example, if my child is working through a math problem, even if they don’t get the answer correct, I will validate their attempt and the resources they used. It might sound like, “Wow! That was a challenging problem. I noticed that you started to get frustrated because you could not remember what 9×3 is but you figured it out by counting by 9’s three times!” Not only does this build your child’s self-esteem but it helps build their inner resources for the next time they encounter a challenge. 

Validation takes practice. You can get more learning and practice in using validation as well as understanding how the brain impacts our physical and emotional responses in our online parenting class, “Parenting in an Anxious World.

 

A few weeks ago, Jessi and I were talking about parenting and the pandemic. During the course of our conversation we got on the topic of resilience. Resilience is the ability to recover quickly from difficulties. The pandemic has been hard on the entire world for a variety of reasons and it’s not the only hard thing we will encounter. Could we, as parents, use this time to help our children learn skills that will not only help our families survive this time of global pandemic but thrive in future challenges?

Resiliency is like armor. It protects us against experiences which could be overwhelming, it helps us maintain balance when life is difficult or stressful, and it can protect us from developing some mental health difficulties and issues. People who possess these skills are able to use these strengths and skills to recover well when they face a difficulty. Without the armor of resiliency, we can easily become overwhelmed by and use unhealthy coping mechanisms leading to additional stress and challenge as well as possible poor mental health. 

So we’ve put together a new FREE course, “Parenting in a Pandemic: Secrets to Survival” because we want to help you strengthen your family’s armor of resiliency. The class is self-paced so that you can work through it on your own schedule. In it, you will find valuable information on how stress and chaos impact the brain as well as survival skills that will help your family not only right now but also in future challenges. And because we get the most out of information when we are able to put it into action, the course includes three activities that you can do alone or with your family to start putting the survival skills into action.

And yes, it’s FREE because we want you to have this valuable information right now. It’s our gift to you because we are passionate about helping you and your family be strong, no matter what you are facing. 

To get the course, click on the link below.

 

Nothing breaks a parent’s heart like watching their child struggle at something. As the school year gets started, and we all adjust to the ways that school looks different for each one of us, many families find themselves in an uphill battle to support kids, especially those who might struggle to learn even in the best of learning environments. 

There are so many reasons a kid can struggle with learning; dyslexia, ADHD, anxiety, developmental delays and more. No matter the reason, here are some practical steps parents can take to help support their struggling learner and make this school year just a bit smoother.

how to support a struggling learner

1. Advocate for Your Child

As a parent of a struggling learner, one of the greatest lessons I have learned is that no one will fight for my child and their needs like a parent will. You understand your child best and know when they are not being supported in the ways that are most effective. 

Advocacy means helping give your child a voice. You can do this by 

  • Scheduling a time to talk with their teachers about their educational needs. 
  • Connecting with the school counselor to find out what resources are available.
  • Persistently seeking out help and resources and if they say no, ask again in a different way! Educate yourself on what types of resources are available. If your child is doing distance learning this year, they are likely going to need additional supports to be put in place in order for them to be successful. Most schools are struggling to know how to support these learners, so come with a list of suggestions and be part of creating a plan for your child! 

2. Develop Time Management Skills

Time management can be a struggle for all children, but especially those who are struggling with learning. Executive functioning (the ability to organize and reason) can be impacted. Help your child get organized and stay organized. 

  • Start the week or day out by making a list what needs to be accomplished that day from online classes they need to attend to assignments that need to be turned in. 
  • Help them make a list they can follow as a road map and cross off when they are done. You could also put sticky notes on a whiteboard of everything that needs to be done that day and as they complete each task they can move the sticky notes over from one column to the next. 

As you are helping to organize your child, be sure to stay flexible. Every day is not going to go exactly as planned, allow the space and flexibility to move things around from time to time.

3. Encourage Positive Experiences 

So many times kids who struggle at school can begin to feel like everything in life is a struggle. Self-esteem is often negatively impacted, and they can get stuck in the mindset that either they are a failure and that everyone is better. And that’s really not true. While particular parts of academic learning might be challenging, academics is not the only places of intelligence. We can excel in how we move our bodies, know ourselves, know other people, music, art/drawing, science, outdoors, and so much more.

If school is difficult, help engage your child discover the places and things that come easily and naturally to them and provide opportunities for them to do those things. If they enjoy sports, make time for them to move their bodies every day and highlight the ways in which that comes naturally to them. Are they good friends? Notice the kind ways they engage with others and tell them what you see. Whatever it is take the time to help them find something that is “theirs”. 

For many families across the United States and world, the school year is starting not in the school classroom but rather in our homes. The recent memories of the spring and schools quickly transitioning to remote learning with little notice or preparation on anyone’s part can leave us feeling overwhelmed and anxious about doing it again this school year. 

I’ve had lots of conversations with parents about schooling at home and our struggle to balance work, life, and now more direct involvement in our children’s learning. And the conversations have been good and honest but also felt like there was a missing piece. Many of us are saying that we feel ill-equipped they feel to be teacher and parent. And that is a valid feeling, and we also have the opportunity to model for our children a growth mindset by doing something, even when its hard, and we have to learn along the way.

Tips for successful remote learning

So I thought I’d get some help by asking my friend, veteran educator, for some tips for successful remote learning from perspective of both a mom and an educator. Here are her 4 tips that can help foster an environment of success and growth as we all learn how to do school at home.

Tip #1 – Collaborate on a Schedule

All of us work better when we have a rhythm and some predictability to our days. My educator friend reminds us of the value of working together to create the schedule. One idea is to brainstorm a list as a family of the things that need to happen every day, including school as well as household/life things and then, depending on the age of the child, give space for some autonomy in choosing when those things happen. For a preschool/kindergarten age child, they might get to choose the order in which they brush their teeth and get dressed. An upper elementary child might choose when they do their independent reading time. By the time a child is in middle school and high school, they can start to order their day and include time to connect with friends, engage in physical exercise, as well as their school day. 

Tip #2 – Empower and Equip Your Student for Success

I don’t know about you, but with so many roles and things on our plates right now, it’s easy for me to fall into the trap of either doing the hard things for my kids or just avoiding them all together. My educator friend shared the idea of the “productive struggle” that really resonated with me. Just as we talked a few months ago about the power of boredom regarding creativity, so the power of the “productive struggle” is valuable in building, among many other things, autonomy and self-esteem. 

As parents, our role in this can be helping set kids up for success. Here’s a few ideas:

  • Schedule Routine Check-Ins: Maybe you start in the morning with a check-in and work together to make a list of tasks and goals for the day. You might start with “What’s your plan?” Another good check-in time might be the end of the school day. A great way to start this check in is “What did you accomplish today?”
  • The Power of a Cheat-Sheet: Help your child create a document or a paper that is posted somewhere that provides links to their coursework, how to access their teacher, and any other information they need to be successful. Then, when they come ask for help, you can direct them to their “cheat-sheet” and therefore empower them to be successful on their own.

Tip #3 – Set Goals

Learning to set a goal, determining the steps to accomplish the goal, and doing it are important life lessons. We can help our children this school year set both academic and life goals. If reading is a challenge, maybe you work together to set a goal for the number of books your child will read each week, month, or term. If it’s a challenging goal for your child, think about what might help with motivation. Maybe it’s a reward of some type for accomplishing the goal or a celebration. 

While academic goals are important, my educator friend reminded me of the importance of setting personal goals as well. Is there something your child wants to learn or do? With limited sports and extracurricular activities, maybe this is a great time to learn that new skill or activity. I know I have been personally surprised at what my own kids are learning during this time. 

Tip #4 – Celebrate!

I appreciated this tip because it can become so easy to focus what’s not workings, especially if you have a student who is not thriving in the virtual learning platform. Even if they don’t get the “right answer,” celebrate their progress, their determination to try new things, or their understanding of the bigger concept even if a small part was off. My educator friend mentioned that this is a big part of the classroom environment in a traditional learning model that she is learning how to replicate in the virtual classroom and as parents, we can help grow our children’s desire and ability to do hard things by celebrating the big and little accomplishments.