…and nothing is impossible!

When life throws obstacles at us, we might start to feel like everything is impossible. We start to wonder if we’re stuck because something is wrong with us. Am I too lazy to take the first steps? What if I never get anything done? What if I end up standing here forever because I don’t know what to do? Maybe we start to use shame as a motivator, and our self-talk goes dark: “people are going to realize I’m failing. I can’t even do this one task, what’s wrong with me?” These aren’t little issues we’re battling anymore. Now being stuck cascades into a much bigger problem.  

The best thing you can do when you’re stuck and these big feelings start crowding in is to take a single step. Just do SOMETHING, even if it might be the wrong thing. If you’re struggling with meal planning, plan peanut butter sandwiches. If your child is struggling with spelling, could you come up with a jingle to help them with one word?

The point of this is twofold. One, it teaches your brain that starting can be easy! This is a huge step when your brain keeps telling you you’ll never get anywhere- look, you learned a whole spelling word and ate a sandwich! It’s not nothing. Two, it gets you going. Every action you can take is building momentum to help you take on bigger and more exciting challenges.

6 Steps to Starting (even when it’s hard):

  1. Start with a small, achievable action
  2. Break large tasks into smaller pieces
  3. Have a plan: if you know where you’re going, it’s easier keep moving
  4. Habit stack: tie your new task to things you do every day (like eat)
  5. Reminders – write it down, set alarms or use an app. 
  6. Celebrate your small successes.
banana slices on wooden chopping board
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Use These 6 Steps for Reading
If we were to use this six-step process for helping your child learn to read, the first goal is to start with something tiny and repeatable and scale it up slowly from there. We can create a plan, figure out good times to work on things, set up reminders, and celebrate our successes.

It might look like this:

  1. Play “what’s the first sound in ______(cake, smile, fish, etc.)”  Take turns choosing words with your child.
  2. “Teach my child how to read” is a huge task, but it breaks down easily. Pick just one thing to work on at a time- maybe you do only silent e words, or maybe just words with an -sh- blend.
  3. Have a plan of how often you want to work, where you want to work, and an estimate of how many concepts to cover. Don’t be tempted to make it extreme- make this seem like it will be so easy anyone could do it! Even 5 minutes is more than no minutes, and one new concept is more than zero.  
  4. Habit stack: this means putting the new thing you want to do right before or right after something you already do regularly. Maybe do a lesson right after breakfast? Perhaps after school, or with a snack on the weekend. Find a time that works for you and make it memorable!
  5. Schedule it! Set alarms or calendar invites for yourself. Life happens, and we all forget!
  6. You’re ready to move to a new concept? Have a special treat or do a happy dance in the kitchen. Look how far you’ve come already! 
pineapple fruit
Photo by Pineapple Supply Co. on Pexels.com

Still Feeling Overwhelmed?

If either you or your child gets overwhelmed in this process, it might be a good idea to take a step back and look at your reaction. Try to approach each “stuck point” from a place of connection or curiosity. There is no sense in pushing when things aren’t going well, but empathy and patience will go a long way.

Here are some phrases you can try if you’re getting push back:

  • If it feels too hard: “I wonder what it is about this that feels so overwhelming.” Let your child share. Sometimes they know exactly what they need. 
  • If it feels like you’re not getting anywhere: “it’s normal to get stuck sometimes. Let’s take it back a step so our brains can catch up.” Sometimes we just need time to process new ideas, sometimes we need a different approach, and sometimes we just need it to be a little bit more fun.
  • If your child is upset: “I know it’s frustrating, I also get frustrated when things are hard.”