Who is Jessi Sigander

We’re taking a little break to get to know each other a little better. This week, we’re talking with Jessi Sigander. She is the founder of the Brain Break Through, a specialized therapy for anyone who struggles with anxiety, trauma, dyslexia, learning issues, or concussions. Watch our interview together to find out more about Jessi’s background and some fun little facts that make Jessi an important part of the ACT Community.

To connect with Jessi, go to www.thebrainbreakthrough.com or you can find her on Facebook

Who is Hannah Benedict?

You’ve seen our faces on Facebook Live each week, read our blog posts, and learned from our course, but who are we and why do we do what we do?!?!

Over the next two weeks, we are going to take some time to share a little more about ourselves, our background, why we do what we do, and some fun facts.

Join us this week as Jessi interviews Hannah. Learn how she became a counselor and parent coach, why she likes working with kids, and some fun things that make Hannah special.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the work Hannah does with families and kids and to contact with her, you can visit her website at www.hannahbenedict.com.

A Letter to My Kids

It’s summer and things are so much different from most of us planned they would be. Vacations have been postponed, camps cancelled, and parks shutdown.

This week, Jessi shares a letter written to her kids about her feelings, thoughts, and hopes for her children this summer. 

A Summertime Letter to my Kids

Dear Kids,

There are so many things I wished for you this summer, so many things I was looking forward to. 

I wanted to make our summer bucket list and start ticking off the boxes. 

I wished to spend weeks on end in the homes of relatives far away and to open our home to our favorite out-of-town guests. 

I dreamed of traveling to new parts of the world and all the adventures we’d have. 

I wanted you to feel the excitement and freedom of camp and the enrichment and growth of the art classes you’ve been begging for. 

I longed for lazy days at parks and water fountains with friends, nights full of sleepovers and camping trips, farmers markets, going to parades, and beach days.

Summer does not look like we planned for and at the same time, I see new adventures, new memories, and maybe even some new traditions. 

Yes, you feel bored but maybe boredom’s not such a bad thing? Maybe boredom is fueling a new kind of summer. A summer full of new adventures in the kitchen together, quiet moments to visit new worlds in a book, and exploring new trails closer to home. 

Life feels simpler. We are doing things that we’ve always talked about doing but never found the time, like paddleboarding and watching our garden grow from small seeds to food we can enjoy. I’m already dreaming of juicy tomatoes, lush raspberries, and crunchy peas. 

Our world has become smaller and at the same time deeper. The connection with friends around our fire pit is full of laughter and deep conversation. The simple pleasure of a sprinkler under a trampoline and water balloons galore fill me with laughter.  Late night bike rides to the creek are memories I will treasure.

This is not the summer I would have chosen for us. It’s different but maybe different is neither bad nor good but just different. I’m grieving the things that we are missing and experiencing joy as I learn to lay down my expectations and see the small and big gifts in this different summer. 

Love,

Your Mama

Jessi Sigander

Dr. Jessi Sigander, Phd.

Dr. Jessi Sigander is native to the Northwest and loves reading, traveling, and learning. Jessi is the founder and creator of Brain Break Through Therapy, a holistic approach based in N.O.T. to address anxiety, trauma, and dyslexia in the body. Jessi’s background is in education with BA in education, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, and a PhD in Educational Leadership. ACT Parenting Community is a program of The Brain Breakthrough. 

 

3 Ways to Welcome Boredom

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.

Child who is bored

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. 

Hannah Benedict

Hannah Benedict

Hannah loves anything that gets her outside, baking, and reading. Through her counseling practice, Hannah partners with people to give them practical solutions for intentional living. She has a master’s degree in counseling, specializing in children and adolescents, and is a master’s level PCI® Certified Parent Coach.

How to Not Have a Conversation About Anxiety

Last week we talked about the importance of having conversations about anxiety with our kids and how to do it in a healthy way. 

And those conversations are really important. However, we want to be careful that anxiety doesn’t become the main focus of our conversations. 

Join Jessi and Hannah as they talk about different strategies that they use in their own homes to acknowledge the feelings of anxiety and how that’s impacting their family and the ways in which they keep anxiety from overtaking the family. 

We believe in building our community and what better way to do that then through a shared learning experience.

Gather 5 or more friends to take our “Parenting in an Anxious World” course and we will

  • Give each of you 50% off your registration
  • Your own private cohort
  • Private access to Hannah and Jessi as you work through the course.

Email us at info@actparentingcommunity.com for more information. 

Make sure you’re part of the conversation on our ACT Parenting Facebook Group Page

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!

Mother and child talking 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!”

To get more action steps, connection with community, and research-based teaching on parenting and anxiety, check out our online course “Parenting an Anxious Child.” In this course you will get tools designed to help you experience more calm in your family.

Hannah Benedict

Hannah Benedict, M.A, LPC-Intern

Hannah loves anything that gets her outside, baking, and reading. Through her counseling practice, Hannah partners with people to give them practical solutions for intentional living. She has a master’s degree in counseling, specializing in children and adolescents, and is a master’s level PCI® Certified Parent Coach. 

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 are a list of fears that are typical and age appropriate for children.

Typical anxiety for children by age chart

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.
Withdrawn and anxious child

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. 

Jessi Sigander

Jessi Sigander, PhD.

Dr. Jessi Sigander is native to the Northwest and loves reading, traveling, and learning. Jessi is the founder and creator of Brain Break Through Therapy, a holistic approach based in N.O.T. to address anxiety, trauma, and dyslexia in the body. Jessi’s background is in education with BA in education, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, and a PhD in Educational Leadership. ACT Parenting Community is a program of The Brain Breakthrough.  

WE’VE GOT BIG NEWS!!! And we are just so excited to share it with you!

We consistently hear from parents that they want/need more practical tools to address the anxiety and chaos that their families are experiencing. We hear you because we need this too as parents and this is the vision behind our online course “Building Blocks for Whole Family Calm: Parenting in an Anxious World.” To give you real practical action steps, connection with community, and research-based teaching.

This week, join our conversation about what you can expect to gain from the course. 🎁 And stay tuned to the end for a special coupon code for our ACT Community Members!

Ready to enroll in our Online Course? Click on the button below to get more infor and to register today!

 

A few years ago I was vacuuming when my vacuum made a weird noise, started smelling like burnt rubber, and became very difficult to push. I had no idea what happened and after a few moments, the burnt rubber smell went away, so I continued on, pushing my vacuum over the carpets with so much effort, that my arms quickly grew tired and I started working up a sweat. 

Anxious parent with hands on face

 

Over the next month, I noticed that our carpets didn’t look as clean as the normally did but the vacuum was still turning on, still sucking things up, and so I made do. Every time I would vacuum, I’d get tired, sweaty, and frustrated but honestly, I didn’t know or want to take the time to figure out what was going on with my vacuum cleaner and at the time, we had no money for a new one. 

 

So I made accommodations to work around the broken vacuum cleaner. I started vacuuming less, vacuuming before I showered (it was really hard work!), and sweeping our carpet by the entry door one day. It’s not pretty and yes, life could be easier if we stopped and address the root of the problem, but we’re surviving.

 

So I imagine you’re wondering what in the world this story of my broken vacuum cleaner has to do with parenting. I know, it’s a silly story but think about it. How often do we approach life, parenting included, in this same way?

 

We are surviving but we are not thriving. Our heads hit the pillow each night, and we cover ourselves in blankets of discouragement and disappointment. Our homes and our lives feel chaotic, and we know it could be better, but we don’t even know where to start. 

 

Let’s face it, the world we are raising our kids in is unsettling. Chaos, stress, and trauma are the norms and it’s affecting our families and our homes. Statistic tell us that 7% of children ages 3-14 meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder and the number just keeps rising. 

 

Sometimes, we just get use to the surviving the chaos and stress because we don’t know what else to do. I got use to the broken vacuum cleaner because I didn’t know what else to do and I didn’t want to ask for help (and that’s another conversation for another day) but after months of wrestling with it and increasingly dirty carpets, I knew I needed more help. 

 

On June 1st, we are launching our first ACT Parenting Community online course, “Building Blocks for Whole Family Calm: Parenting in an Anxious World.” The vision for this course is to provide you with foundational knowledge to recognize the influence of anxiety and learn some practical tools to help your family begin to experience more calm in the midst of an anxious world. 

 

This is not a magic fix but rather a course where you can gain not only new knowledge and tools but also connection with other parents. The online course has video teaching, reading, action steps, and discussions with other parents as well as an invitation to join Dr Jessi Sigander and myself for a live class for more teaching and conversation.

 

We believe in what we are teaching because we’ve seen in impact our own families. Over the next two weeks, we will be offering special offers, discount codes, and giveaways for our ACT Parenting Community members. And if you know anyone who could benefit, be sure to invite them to join the community!

 

President

Hannah Benedict

Hannah Benedict is a northwest native as well and loves anything that gets her outside, baking, and reading. Through her coaching practice, Hannah partners with people to give them practical solutions for intentional living. She has a master’s degree in counseling, specializing in children and adolescents, a B.S. in Human Development, and is a master’s level PCI® Certified Parent Coach. As well as coaching, Hannah teaches workshop, trainings, and has over 15 years of experience as an educator in a variety of settings.  

 

I think each one of us would agree that the last two months have full of change that leaves us feeling anxious. And this change has affected most areas of life and added new roles for us to navigate. Now, we are not only a parent, but we have also become our kids main sources for education, fun, friends, cooks, cleaners, doctors and etc. 

 

Anxious child working on school work.

Let’s focus today on the new role of teacher or co-teacher. I don’t know about you, but being my children’s teacher over the past two months as come with some big highs and deep lows. In this role, as we are learning more about our kids, how they learn, and the growth and challenges they face academically each day. We may have moments where we feel connected and our kids are enjoying school. And in the next moment feel as though we are failing our kids as we battle with the child who is crying over a broken pencil, refusing to read for 30 minutes a day, or ripping up a math paper you just spent the last two hours helping them with.

All kids and parents are going to hit a wall from time to time. It might be struggling with technology, a math assignment, worry about a large assignment, or just sadness about the changes that have taken place in life. This place of overwhelm is often where we see anxiety come up. For some, the anxiety makes them feel so overwhelmed that they just give up. For others, it can show up as a struggle for perfectionism.

So how do we address anxiety and schooling at home?

 

  • Give your kids the space to feel this way. Things rarely gets better by asking kids to try harder. Empathize with them and validate the feelings of overwhelm. Instead of telling them it’s going to be okay or to stop crying/ripping papers/yelling, try saying something like “Wow! You have some big feelings. This feels really overwhelming and you wonder if you’ll ever get it.” or “I wonder if you are feeling sad and missing your friends.” Sometimes just naming the feeling and connecting it to the experience helps everyone recognize and address what is really going on.
  • Get their bodies moving! Help them flip upside down when they begin to feel overwhelmed or do 15 jumping jacks, try a brain break activity online such as “Go Noodle” or take a walk around the neighborhood. Physical activity helps to regulate the body and to feel more grounded. It uses the energy of these intense emotions making it easier for everyone to re-engage with the thinking part of our brains rather than the emotional part. And, make sure to build regular movement breaks into your daily routines. In a typical classroom they move to sharpen their pencil, or go to the carpet for reading time, or change between classes. All of these times allow our kids brains to take a break from learning, and they still need that today.
  • Make a plan together. Every day and every person in our homes have their own unique needs and ways of meeting those needs. We can help our kids by working together to make plans to meet those needs. If they’ve got a big project, work together to break it down into manageable tasks. Work together to decide when school starts, ends, and when you are available to help. And acknowledge that every day has its own unique needs. So find a routine and collaborate each day to adapt your family plan to meet those unique needs. The key is working together. The more our kids feel they are a part of the schedule, the more likely they are to work within the schedule.
  • Take a “mental” health day if possible. Sometimes we all just need a break. This may mean taking the day off from school and making it up later, or taking the morning off and doing something else. Be gentle and kind to yourself and your kids. We are all navigating new experiences. None of us have ever lived through a pandemic before. And doing this well sometimes means taking a step back and connecting on a relational level before re-engaging with school and other tasks.

 

Jessi Sigander, PhD.

Dr. Jessi Sigander is native to the Northwest and loves reading, traveling, and learning. Jessi is the founder and creator of Brain Break Through Therapy, a holistic approach based in N.O.T. to address anxiety, trauma, and dyslexia in the body. Jessi’s background is in education with BA in education, Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, and a PhD in Educational Leadership. ACT Parenting Community is a program of The Brain Breakthrough.