#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.