This year was challenging. That is not true. Let me start over. This has been one of the most challenging years of my life. My teenage daughter has been battling chronic illness. During numerous appointments, doctors’ offices, radiologists, and people who claim to be experts, her pain increased and she grew sicker. I felt helpless. I felt scared. I dealt with my feelings of ineptness by overcompensating, suggesting constant possibilities, and staying eternally positive. The more I spiraled into “help mode,” the more she pulled away. She needed me to back off, but she did not know how to tell me. She needed me to be present with her in the middle of her pain, but she did not need me to fix things. She needed her mom.
At the same time, my dear friend, Kim Fredrickson, shared with me that she was writing a book about compassionate parenting based on her three decades of teaching parenting workshops. She asked if I could read the manuscript and then write about what the book meant to me. I immediately agreed due to the transformational impact her first book had on my life and relationships, Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic into a Compassionate Friend.
As I opened the pages of Kim’s new book, I found what I needed at just the right time: I needed clear guidance on how to be present with my daughter amid her crisis in a way that validated her experience. From the beginning, Kim normalized both my frustration at not knowing how to help my daughter, not to mention how much I was beating myself up inside:
“We can be hard on ourselves. We don’t mean to, we simply don’t know another way to respond to our struggles and failures as a parent. We need compassion, not only for ourselves and the impossible job of being a parent, but for our children too. We have a lot in common with our children. We’ve never been a parent, and they’ve never been a child. We are all on a big learning curve.” (2017, Fredrickson)
From this point forward in the book, I learned from Kim how my own compassion toward myself is essential for a healthy life for my children that begins with my own journey as a healthy parent. Kim speaks compassion into the pain we feel when we realize our limitations as human beings.
“Self-compassion is a crucial practice for parents. If we continually give to others without nurturing ourselves, our emotional gas tank will be stuck on empty. By nurturing and supporting ourselves, we will have more emotional resources to give to our children. By forgiving ourselves for the inevitable mistakes we make as parents—remembering we’re only human and doing the best we can—we won’t waste precious energy beating ourselves up. Instead, we can learn from our mistakes and focus on the joy and meaning found in raising our little (or big) ones.” (2017, Fredrickson)
- Teaching Your Children Self-Compassion
- Building Emotional Closeness with Your Children
- Getting Your Kids to Listen
- Healthy Boundaries: Setting Limits with Love
- Parenting with Grace and Truth: Building Personal Responsibility
- Helping Kids Cooperate
- Helping Your Kids Become Emotionally Healthy
- Helping Kids with Anger and Fears
- Skills Helping Kids Work Through Tough Situations
- Coaching Your Kids Through Life
The chapter on building emotional closeness helped me work on being present with my daughter during her daily struggle. Kim’s words echoed my experience:
“We sometimes feel so bad for what they are going through that we want to jump in and make it better, or comment on the bright side. We may feel like it’s being helpful, but it isn’t. What they need is for us to join them in their pain and not minimize what they are going through.” (2017, Fredrickson)
Throughout the chapter, Kim guides the process of building validation of our child’s experience. She gives practical and clear directions on how to create empathy with our children when we seek to understand.
I found myself focusing more on the challenging task of moving toward my daughter’s pain, frustration, anger, sadness, and fear while focusing less on my compulsion to fix her. Every day I tried to pay attention to Kim’s compassionate guidance to simply be present with my daughter. I slipped back into fix-it mode on the bad days, especially the days that were scary like the post-surgical days when she was supposed to be getting better, but was not. In those moments, I tried to be kind to myself and called a few friends for support.
“Extending kindness to ourselves means we see ourselves as human beings who are wonderfully made by God and valuable, yet who are imperfect and make mistakes. This plays out in the way we view ourselves, speak to ourselves, listen to ourselves, care for ourselves, and respond to ourselves when we make mistakes. It also means learning to comfort ourselves and tending to our needs when we are hurt, lonely, tired, disappointed, sad, or angry. This may sound foreign to you because it is such a different way to approach yourself.” (2017, Fredrickson)
Give Your Kids a Break: Parenting with Compassion for You and Your Children is one of the most helpful parenting books I have ever read. Kim’s book provides clear guidance within the context of the challenges of parenting in today’s world. She is real about the realities of being too busy, tired, overwhelmed by social media, and so many other pressures parents experience. This book is filled with practical tools for parents that desire healthy relationships with our children in the hopes they will grow into healthy resilient adults. That is the journey my daughter and I are on together, and I am happy to say that Kim’s book helped me give my daughter the space she needed while she was healing. Thankfully, after months of medical care, she is doing better.
Thanks to my daughter who read over this blog post and agreed that we could publish it. Thanks to my husband for his editing and polishing skills. And a big thank you to Kim Fredrickson. My daughter and I are in a much better place today because of Kim’s wise teachings of truth and grace.