I have the recurring memory from last spring of coming into my son’s room after a morning of “online” school to discover that absolutely nothing has been completed. The words, “What do you mean you have nothing done!!!!! What have you been doing ALL MORNING?” come quickly flying out of my mouth. 

I glance around the room and there are papers everywhere, piles and piles of them! I grab one and it’s an assignment from two weeks ago. 

“Did you turn this in?” I ask. 

A head shake and the excuse of “I didn’t know how so I just didn’t” confirm that it’s just one more thing in a long line of things that have not gotten done.

I can feel my blood start to boil just thinking about it right now. And the potential for a repeat is high if we don’t start to do something different.

Parenting an forgetful child

One of the most helpful things I’ve learned in parenting is that my child’s behavior is telling me something. If I stop and listen, the behavior is usually telling me that my child is either (1) lacking a skill to be successful or (2) has a need that is not being met.

In this case, my child is lacking a skill and that skill is called executive functioning. 

Executive functioning is a set of mental skills that include working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. 

When my son is struggling to accomplish a long list of tasks without getting side tracked by other more exciting things, keep his assignments organized, or figure out a multi-step process of turning an assignment in, he is showing that he’s lacking a skill in working memory and self-control. 

As we prepare for another year of being more present and involved in our children’s learning, I know that I will need more tools and resources to help my son and I know I’m not alone. Here are the three main areas of executive functioning a tip on how to help your child grow that particular skill.

1 – Working Memory

Working Memory is the ability to hold on to information and then use it. Working memory is useful not only in keeping track of the steps need to get ready in the morning but also remembering all the steps to solve a math problem. 

Parent Tip: Teach your child some ways of remembering things. This can be creating a checklist, keeping a planner, or making a list of things that need to be done each day. Often times kids who struggle with working memory will rebel against the idea of making a list. I’ve found it helpful to offer a couple ideas for my son to pick from instead of insisting on the one I think will work best.

2 – Flexible Thinking

Flexible thinking is the ability to think about things in more than one way. In school this can create challenges when learning multiple ways of solving a similar problem. But it  child who struggles with flexible thinking can have a hard time when  something suddenly changes or they need to do something differently than they had planned or imagined. 

Parent Tip: Talk about the potential for things to change before a change even occurs. You might teach your child the following chant. 

Flexible Chant

3 – Self-Control

Self control is the ability to ignore distractions and manage one’s impulses, emotions, and behaviors. This skill helps kids regulate their emotions and say no to distractions. When kids are struggling you might see them challenged to stop playing video games after a specific amount of time or blurt out an answer without being called on in class.

Parent Tip: Practice delaying gratification. For example, if your child really wants to play a video game, what are the things they need to accomplish before playing the video game. If this is new, start with 1-3 things and increase as their ability to delay gratification increases. 

This is just a few ideas. We’ve got lots more help for parents! Make sure you’ve subscribed to our newsletters and join us on our Facebook Group this week for more tools and encouragement around helping you and your child get ready for a successful back to school experience. 


The new school year is kicking off for some of us and just about too for others. For almost every family school this year will look different and all the changes are causing lots of different emotions for both parents and kids. One common emotion is anxiety for both parents, students, and teachers. 

Anxiety is a common response to unknown situations where we feel like we have very little control. Most people don’t like feeling out of control and our brain responds to these feelings not from a rational thinking brain, but rather does everything it can to protect us. It’s common to get stuck in a cycle of anxiety where we do something to avoid the anxious feelings and while they go away for a bit, the feelings soon come back, and we find ourselves doing things to either avoid or fight against the anxious feelings.

3 simple steps to a smooth start to the school year

When it comes to the unknowns of the start of school during a pandemic, there are lots of unknowns and if we don’t take action, we can get stuck in a cycle of anxiety in our homes. Here are three simple steps to help bring down the anxiety levels in your home and help foster a smooth start to the school year.  

Step 1 – Check in on Yourself

If we are overcome by our own anxiety, we will struggle to help our kids regulate and calm. Take a moment to check-in with yourself using the following tools: 

  • Anxiety Check: On a scale of 1-10, where would I rate my feelings of anxiety when I think about school? What would it take to lower my level by one of two points?
  • Re-shift Focus: What are the things I do have control of? What are things I can let go of?
  • Self-Care: How am I caring for myself? Consider your needs physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually, and intellectually

Kids often take their cues from their parents, so learning to manage your own anxiety can impact how your kids navigate this new season. 

Step 2 – Do Some Test Runs

If your child is returning to the classroom with masks and new guidelines, take some time to do some test runs. Help them find masks they are comfortable wearing. Talk about the new “normal” they will be facing. Encourage them to share any of their concerns with the “new” way things will be done. 

If your child is schooling from home, talk with them about school expectations, opportunities they may have to interact with classmates online (this can be anxiety provoking for some), and take the time to begin to figure out what the upcoming school year may look like for your family. 

Step 3 – Practice Body Awareness

Teaching ourselves and our kids to listen to our bodies is important. When we get busy, we can ignore what our bodies are saying to us. Help your child begin to recognize when and where in their body they start to feel anxiety. This may look different in each person from butterflies in the stomach, to a tightening of the chest, to feet that can’t keep still or feeling like they can’t catch their breath. 

Once we understand what anxiety feels like in our bodies, we can do something about it. Some common tools you might use for yourself and teach your kids are calming strategies like mindfulness or breathing exercises or engaging your 5 senses to begin to calm their bodies down. You can also find many more tools for addressing anxiety in our online parenting course, “Parenting in an Anxious World.

This week was hard. Like many, we have been wondering what the coming school year would be like and this week, those of us that live in Oregon got word that we will be fully online in the fall. 

It feels really heavy. 

Both Jessi and I read a blog post this week by Ann Voskamp and while much of it resonated with how we were feeling, one line stood out. 

“Holding space for the Unknown.”

And it hit me that is the weight that I’m carrying. It’s all the unknown. The unknown not just about school but how long and how hard the pandemic will affect our world.

In the video, we want to share some of how we are processing this and to talk about three tools that we are using to bring us back into the present moment with ourselves, our families, our jobs, and everything else that we are carrying.

  1. Focusing on the donut and not the hole.
  2. Letting go of expectations.
  3. Doing the next right thing for our family. 

When I feel out of control, feelings of anxiety are usually not far behind. My shoulders become tense, restless energy finds me cleaning the bathroom (I hate cleaning the bathroom), and those closest to me are subject to my short temper.   

When I feel out of control, I notice that I’m overly sensitive to sounds, textures, and light. The normal sounds of my kids playing seems amplified by one thousand, the tag on my shirt is now a thorn in my side, or the beep of the microwave can send me over the edge and I’m now screaming for it all to stop!

Can you relate?

Circle of Control

When we feel out of control, our bodies and minds go on alert. 

Many years ago, I came across a quote that I continually come back to. “What you focus on grows.” It’s so simple yet so powerful. What I pay attention to, give space in my life and in my brain becomes the biggest and most important thing. 

When I feel out of control, it’s helpful to pay attention to what I can control. 

“Circle of Control”

Today I want to share with you a simple exercise called “Circle of Control.” I’ve found this to be helpful to use not only for myself, but with my kids as well. By intentionally looking at a situation and identifying what I have control or influence over and what I can let go of helps calm my anxious and frantic feelings. When I focus on where I do have influence, those places grow in my life. It brings a sense of control back to the situation and often uncovers what the right next step is for me and my family. 

Here’s how it works. I start with a blank piece of paper. On the paper I draw a big circle. Inside the circle goes everything I have the ability to influence or control. If I can’t control or influence it, it goes outside the circle. Here’s an example:

“Circle of Control” with Kids

Just as we feel anxious and uncertain about things that are out of our control, so do our kids. The “Circle of Control” can be helpful, especially for upper elementary, middle schoolers, and high school age kids. They are learning where they have influence and where they do not. It can be on a large scale or small.

Sometimes I do this using paper and pen like I demonstrated above and sometimes I will simply ask “Is that something that you can control or change? 

With elementary age kids, I will provide examples and have them sort. For example, if we are talking about problems with a friend at school I might offer the following situations:

  • Where your friend eats lunch (no control)
  • Where you eat lunch (control)
  • Feeling sad that friend is eating with someone else (no control)
  • What you do with your sad feelings (control)
  • Inviting another friend to eat lunch with you (control)

As children get older, they are able to come up with their own possibilities but may still need some guidance. 

Why is this Important?

I think that most of us will agree that life is not always easy. Some things are harder than others and right now, a lot of things feel hard. We can be our best selves when we have the tools and resources to respond to hard things in healthy ways. Using the “Circle of Control” is just one tool that can help us sift through a hard situation and focus on our places of influence and let go of the others. Teaching our kids to do the same will help them not only now, but in the years to come. 


I don’t know about you, but one conversation that keeps swirling around our house right now is: what in the world should we do about going back to school this fall? 

All the unknowns, guessing, and endless possible scenarios pile heavy on us and leave us feeling helpless.  

  • Should we return to our neighborhood school?
  • Should we home school?
  • If we homeschool are unschooling or joining a co-op?
  • Should we do school online?
School in the Fall?

There are so many options to consider and I don’t know about you, but not one option has yet to “feel right.” There are also so many practicalities to figure out:

  • What schedule works best for my family?
  • Who is going to watch my kids if they are schooling at home and I have to work?
  • What environment will my kids function best in?
  • Where do I think my kids be the safest?
  • Where will their friends be going to school?
  • What if I’m not the type of teacher my kids need
  • Can I possibly survive whatever this is going to look like for me family 😊

Let’s face it, no one has done this before, and I am choosing to believe that we are all doing the best we can. I personally know some leaders in our local schools and I know they are working long and hard to figure out the best options given the ever-changing guidelines and unfolding story. At the end of the day there really is no right answer. 

I am finding calm in the midst of the chaos by using these thoughts to filter our options for school next year and what is the next right thing for our family. 

Does this work logistically for our family? 

Plain and simple, given the resources and time that we have, do we have the physical and emotional bandwidth to make this work? In this question, I’m also considering who is in our community that can help with the logistics of the plan.

What’s the impact on our family’s physical, social, and emotional health? 

In light of everything right now, it’s easy to become hyper focused on our physical safety and at the same time we need to be considering the impact of our choices on our social and emotional health. Whether it’s through school or other options, we are seeing how important it is to help foster our children’s friendships and connection with peers. 

Remind myself that what’s right for my family will be different from others. 

And that’s okay. This one has been something I’ve thought about a lot recently. It’s easy to compare myself and my family to another and feel stressed when our decisions or actions are not the same. But at the end of the day, I have to trust that we are all doing the best that we can and have grace for myself and grace for those around me.   

And we’re going to keep talking about it as a community. Our goal over the next few weeks is to provide you with tools and resources to help support whatever decision is best for your family. So join us for the conversation both here and in our Facebook Group!


I’ve already heard it at least once a day: “I’m bored.” 

Or its famous counterpart, “There’s nothing to do.”

And we are not even a week into summer break.

3 ways to welcome boredom

While hearing “I’m bored” from my children is not new, it feels different this year. I’m an advocate for my kids feeling bored and I’ll share some reasons why in just a minute, but I want to stop and acknowledge that this year is different. This year, we’ve been home pretty much all the time for three months, missed spring sports and competitions, celebrated birthdays and graduations virtually, and have been creatively occupying ourselves in the new normal we are experiencing for some time. 

I have been noticing that when I hear the words I’m bored,” I start to feel a feeling of panic rise inside me; my heart starts to race, my hands start to sweat, and I can’t help but think with despair, “It’s going to be a long summer!” As I reflect on the reasons why this summer feels different, I can name the surface ones easily. Big trips have been postponed. Traditional summer events cancelled. Classic summer activities modified. Just yesterday afternoon I went to suggest a trip to the library to get some books, a favorite summer pastime in our home, only to stop myself because our library is closed.

But I think the panic feeling comes from a deeper place of feeling responsible for my children’s happiness. I wonder if I’m accepting the responsibility of entertaining my children rather than letting the sit in the space and even discomfort that comes from boredom. In our instant gratification world, it’s rare to wait, to sit, and ponder and yet, this it’s from this space that big ideas come from. Researchers have found that we need to be bored to build creativity and self-awareness! We need to be bored!

Boredom is one of the birthplaces of creativity.

Not being entertained or occupied gives space for the mind to wander, to daydream, and to come up with new ideas. I can recall memories of childhood summers, spending long summer afternoons outside, playing house, cops and robbers, or inventing new games. And I hear it in my own kids when they come in after a long afternoon playing with neighborhood friends, building a fort or dreaming about a roadside bake sale. All from boredom.

Boredom helps foster self-awareness and self-efficacy. 

When we take a step back, stop filling every minute of our child’s day, or fixing every problem they encounter, our children start to learn how to do it for themselves. They probably won’t do it the way we would do it and it might make a big mess, but that’s all part of the process of learning who they are, what they like, what they’re good at, and what it takes to get better. 

I can imagine some of you are reading this and thinking, “that’s great but what do I do when my kid keeps complaining over and over that they are bored?” I’m laughing as I write this sentence because just as I sat down to work on this article, my oldest came marching by saying in a sing-song voice, “I’m bored, I’m bored, I’m really really bored.” He came back five minutes later and told me a little more about his boredom and why he was bored. And I’ll admit, I wanted to fix it but here’s what I’ve found to be a more helpful response.

  1. Brainstorm a Boredom List. At the beginning of the summer we brainstorm a list of activities people can do when they are bored. Some the things are on the list summer after summer but I find the act of making a list helps get the creative juices flowing. This year the list is posted on the wall between my kids bedrooms. They see it often and it’s a good reminder of different things they can do to occupy their time. 
  2. Have Things to Look Forward To. There is a time and a place for structure and for looking forward to things. This summer we’re getting creative by planning baking competitions and Nerf gun wars more than trips the community swimming pool but having these things to look forward to helps in the unstructured moments. 
  3. Encourage creativity. My kids know that when they come to me telling me how bored they are, they will most likely hear at some point, “You sound super bored and I’m looking forward to seeing what you will create.” I just used that phrase with my oldest. He rolled his eyes (he’s a teenager) and then decided to go find something to bake, with the promise of cleaning up for me when he’s done. (I did mention he’s a teenager)  

Yes, I imagine there will be days when we will want to pull our hair out because of boredom this summer. For the kids it might be the unending hours on their hands and for parents it might be hearing “I’m bored” while juggling all the many other things on our to-do lists, but I also imagine that if we can sit in the discomfort of boredom, our children and our families will all benefit from the boredom. 

So you recognize that your child is feeling anxious and know you’re wondering what do you do next. Do you ignore it and maybe it will go away? If you talk about it, will it make them feel more anxious? And if you do talk about it, what do you even say that could possibly be helpful?

Wow! So many questions, so many unknowns. It’s enough to raise our own anxiety levels!

How to have a conversation about anxiety

Whether we’ve experienced feelings of anxiety with our kids in the past or not, I imagine helping our children navigate “new normals” and re-engaging in life will bring up feelings of anxiety not only in ourselves, but also in our kids. The “new normal” we are moving into takes a lot of energy to engage in. It can feel unsettling because no one has done this before and therefore we have no blueprint, no road map from which to frame our experiences. 

So whether it’s talking to our kids about anxiety they might be feeling about the pandemic or fears about making friends, doing well in school, splitting time in different household if parents are separated, how do we have a conversation with kids that helps them to experience more calm rather than more anxiety

1. Acknowledge what’s going on. 

Pay attention to changes and shifts in your child’s behavior. Do they have a lot of extra energy? Have their sleeping patterns changed? Appetite? Are they more emotional? Withdrawn? 

And then say something. You might start with “I’ve notice that you’ve been quiet and not wanting to play with your friends as much. I wonder if you’re feeling anxious about something?”

2. Ask the right questions. 

Rather than a leading question “Why are you anxious?” ask what about a situation is making them feel anxious or unsettled. Work together to identify the source of the anxiety. 

A great question to start with is “What about playing with your friends makes you feel anxious?” They might share that someone has been making fun of them or it might be that they are scared that they might get sick if they play with a friend. Both of these situations can cause feelings of anxiety but knowing the source can help you to come up with a plan. 

Some great follow up with questions could be: 

  • What does your body feel like? 
  • When was a time that you felt anxious and you handled it in a healthy way? 
  • What do you need to hear when you

3. Focus on What They Do Know

It’s common for us to want to fix the problem and tell our kids that everything will be okay. But the truth is we don’t really know if everything will be okay. For example, if your child is feeling anxious about getting sick, we don’t know if they will or will not get sick. We do know that we are making sure to take care of our bodies and make them as strong and as healthy as possible…etc.

A helpful thing might be to write a list of everything they do know so that they can remind themselves in the future. One conversation will not stop feelings of anxiety but it will help them start to get the tools they need to move through those feelings in healthy ways.

4. Develop a game plan. 

Using what the child does know about the situation, help them develop a game plan. For example, if they are anxious about returning to school, get a plan in place. Talk about what they might do if they do start to feel anxious. This post has some great physical ways to help calm the body. 

When you are making a plan, be specific. If the plan is to call mom or dad when they feel anxious, be specific about how many times or when mom or dad can answer the phone. If they are feeling anxious about a big spider, make a plan to be in the room together while you take care of the spider. Talk about how their heart might be racing and they might feel like running away but how taking deep breaths and talking with dad or mom while in the room can help them to feel more calm. 

And one last thing. 

Have intentional conversations about anxiety with your kids. It’s important. But it’s also important to talk about other things. When you have a kid who struggles on a daily basis with feelings of anxiety, it can begin to feel like that’s all you think about and talk about. Focus your attention and your conversation on the things that are going well with your kid and the places where you see them being successful. As the saying goes, “What we focus on grows!”


A new person or place, an unexpected situation, the first day of school, there are many situations that can make kids feel uncomfortable and nervous. As parents, it can be challenging knowing when anxiety our child is feeling is “normal” and when it has reached a point of needing extra help. 

Some anxiety is normal

Anxiety is a part of every day life. All kids have fears and nerves that come and go throughout life. It’s completely normal for a child’s first reaction to a new situation to be anxious. But as they learn more information about the new situation, talk with parents or others about it, and then have experiences with it, those feels of anxiety typically diminish.

Research and our own experiences tell us that anxiety in certain situations is useful. Our fight, flight, and fear mechanism kicks in and it protects us in dangerous situations. It can be tempting to label all anxiety as bad or to believe that we have done something wrong, but at times anxiety can propel us forward in the right direction. If a child is anxious about doing well on a test, it may cause them to study and prepare for the test or maybe they are experiencing anxiety around a certain

Below is a list of typical and age appropriate fears children experience.

typical anxiety for children by age

When anxiety begins to take over. 

There are a few warning signs that can help parents clue in when anxiety in their children starts to move from “normal” to a place where it can begin to take over a child’s life. 

  • Extreme Meltdowns or Distress. This can look different in each child from small meltdowns to crying, panic attacks, struggling breathing, or the feeling of extreme overwhelm. 
  • Avoidance. Often times when anxiety starts to overtake a child it can cause them to go to extreme lengths to avoid being in the situation that causes them anxiety. This can look like kids avoiding school, refusing to be left alone with someone, hiding themselves away in their rooms for hours on end so they don’t have to deal with a certain situation or just becoming anxious at the mere thought of being exposed to something that can cause them anxiety. 

Behaviors to Watch For 

As a child’s anxiety grows it can begin to impact them in different ways. 

  • Children can overthink situations and imagine everything that could go wrong.
  • Some kids begin to exhibit repetitive and compulsive behaviors that they feel unable to control or stop.
  • They experience challenges falling and staying asleep.
  • They may experience physical displays of distress such as headaches, stomach aches, lethargy etc.

Get Tools: 

One of the first things we can do to help address our child’s anxiety is to help them name their anxiety and the emotions that are connected to that feeling. Often times when we are experiencing feelings of anxiety, we can get stuck in a cycle. Naming those feelings out loud can help us break that cycle.

If your child’s experience of anxiety is stopping them or your family from enjoying life, then it might be time to get more help. A counselor trained to work with children or a parent coach is a great place to start.

And we’ve got additional tools for you as well. 

When you sign-up for our newsletter, we will send you “4 Tips for Parenting an Anxious Child” and watch your email because the very next day you’ll receive our FREE Family Fun Action Step on building emotional literacy in your family. 

Our online course “Parenting in an Anxious World” is full of teaching and practical action steps to help you identify the cycle of anxiety in your family and start taking simple steps towards stopping the cycle and bringing more calm to your family. 


As we navigate the challenges of life, it can be helpful to have a picture of what mental health looks like and feels like. Based off of the work of Dan Siegel in his book, “The Whole Brain Child,” Hannah shares a helpful picture you can use to identify when you or your loved ones are moving through challenges well or when you might need some different tools to get back into the flow.


The other evening, our home was on the brink of exploding. The pressure had been building since the morning. 

3 ways to release the pressure

My youngest woke-up a bear and was grumpy because I forgot to buy his favorite cereal and started pleading with me to go get him more cereal right at that moment. No! I was not going to go to the store right then to buy more.

My oldest came stomping into my make-shift office, declaring how unfair it was that he had to clean the bathroom. Really? I had just spent the last hour doing dishes, sweeping, and picking up random crap all over the house and all he needed to do was clean one bathroom.

Every simple request regarding schoolwork was met with resistances or outright defiance. “NO! I will not do my math!” “What! I have to do reading? I read yesterday!!”

And in the middle of this I was also supposedly working, seeing clients and attempting to be present to their needs at the same time. 

Every little thing increased the pressure and I could feel myself getting ready to explode. 

The thing with pressure is that it will keep building unless it’s released.

Release can either be an explosion of yelling, tears, slamming doors, and broken connection in my relationships or a controlled redirection of the energy. 

One of my favorite ways to redirect the energy is to just STOP and do something different. Below are some of my favorite ways to redirect the pressure before it becomes destructive.


Turning on my favorite Spotify playlist and letting my body move to the music. Sometimes its just me moving to the music. Sometimes it turns into a family dance party. But the music and movement allows the energy to release from the body, gets the happy hormones flowing in the body, and puts a smile on my face.


Creativity is not about creating some Pinterest worthy project. Creativity helps us get outside the box and shifts our perspective. Sure you can draw or paint but cooking, gardening, writing, dig a hole, sidewalk chalk are great creative outlets as well. 


Everyone, not just kids, need to play. Play not only is fun but it strengthens our attachment with each other. Pick something that makes you laugh or at least puts a smile on your face. It doesn’t have to be for a long time. You can set a timer for 10 minutes and play a board game, build Legos, do a puzzle, throw the Frisbee.