Compassion, Parenting

What I Learned about Compassionate Parenting from Kim Fredrickson’s Book: Give Your Kids a Break: Parenting with Compassion for You and Your Children

Kim Fredricksoncompassionate parenting

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.

kim Fredrickson going through difficult timesAt 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)

Kim Fredrickson Give Your Kids a Break compassionate parentingKim offers clear practical guidance in each chapter on topics important to the parent/child relationship:

  • 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.

 

Compassion, Loving Kindness

Self-Care Houston

selfcarehoustonPodbeanToday I am very grateful that a fun idea has become a reality. I started a podcast where I host conversations with healing professionals (therapists, physicians, wholistic practitioners, psychiatrists, spiritual figures) throughout the Houston area about health and wellness topics. 

In the first episode, I have the honor of joining Shannon McLain in a conversation about the practice of Self-Compassion. Shannon is a  mind-body medicine practitioner and certified health and wellness coach at The Center for Intentional Healing.

I am thrilled to invite you along for the ride!

Subscribe on iTunes.

Compassion, Gratitude, Loving Kindness

A Word Imagined

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by Jennifer Christian, LPC and Dr. Jeff M. Christian

Words of hate tear at the fabric of our society; words of kindness mend.

Imagine.

Imagine life without unkind words. Imagine comments sections on your favorite website that only allow constructive criticism, words meant to further the conversation rather than out-shout those who disagree.

Today, online words of hate, abuse, fear, and violence are rampant. The intensity of negativity overwhelms us, a tsunami of words altering our lives without us realizing their enormous power. This new world often feels devoid of kindness. Few of us would choose to pass on this world to the next generations, so we begin this project in the hopes that we can change the future by changing the present.

We have power to create a better world.

Imagine.

Imagine a world that offers encouragement. Imagine a world where people matter. Too often, though, we feel helpless in even thinking about making a change. Where should we begin?

Well, we have some ideas.

Start with some simple things. Appreciation and gratitude, for instance, are powerful tools that can help rebuild this world. Every word of kindness heals, builds resilience, and draws people together.
A Word ImaginedJohn Gottman found that it takes five positive interactions to overcome one negative interaction. Relationships find balance when positive interactions outweigh the negative ones. At times we will misunderstand each other and say the wrong things. We are human, after all. However, for the health of all our relationships, we have the power to create better worlds for ourselves, as well as all of those around us. Our hope that we can do this together is reminiscent of John Lennon’s line, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

 So let’s imagine a better world. One word of kindness can create ripples of healing across our society. If we come together to dedicate building reserves of gratitude in our families, places of work, and all other communities, we can change the tide of negativity.

Here are some other practical suggestions to get us started:

  1. Get creative. We can share great ideas on how to build more positivity into our society. Join our public Facebook group, A Word Imagined, to share ideas.
  1. Remember the magic ratio of 5-to-1. Each week send five notes of encouragement, whether online or handwritten.
  1. Practice gratitude at home as a family. “Researchers found that a nourishing cycle of encouragement and appreciation provides extra incentive to maintain our relationships. In other words, when we appreciate our partners, we develop trust and respect. When we feel appreciated, we feel needed and encouraged.” (Susan Heitler)
  1. Notice the words you say to yourself. Learn how to offer yourself words of kindness and compassion: “Life can be rough without the comfort, balance and guidance of a self-compassionate friend on the inside. Lack of self-compassion affects our relationships and our well being in profoundly negative ways. What a difference it makes to go through life with a kind friend on the inside rather than an internal critic or bully!” (Kim Fredrickson)

Please take a moment to share this article and this project with friends and family. Together, we can create the world we imagine.

For Further Reading:

On appreciation and gratitude:

http://www.jenniferchristiancounseling.com/mental-health/7-powerful-ways-gratitude-will-change-your-life/

On John Gottman’s five interactions:

https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-positive-perspective-dr-gottmans-magic-ratio/

On practicing gratitude at home as a family:

http://www.jenniferchristiancounseling.com/relationships/four-ways-to-build-trust-with-your-partner/?preview_id=538&preview_nonce=b7d0d3d768&post_format=standard&_thumbnail_id=542&preview=true

On Susan Heitler’s work on gratitude in marriage:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/resolution-not-conflict/201207/does-gratitude-matter-in-marriage

On Kim Fredrickson’s work on self-compassion:

http://www.jenniferchristiancounseling.com/counseling/self-compassion-is-vital-for-a-healthy-life/

Compassion, Gratitude, Loving Kindness, peace

Practicing Peace Daily

PeaceI am thinking about practicing virtues. I think about it often. My church family chooses a virtue every year to practice together. Last year it was joy. This year it’s peace. I am grateful to be a part of a community asking what it means to be people of peace in times that feel disorienting. A passage from Colossians 3 is framing our year-long adventure:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:12-17)

The text guides me in peace; I am thankful. The wisdom of people in my community broadens me; I am grateful. How do I become a person of peace? Clothe myself daily with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, love, and gratitude toward myself and others. Okay. Got it. Practice compassion, kindness, forgiveness, gratitude… sounds simple, right?

Well.

I keep getting snagged on challenges. I have been forced to spend some time around people. Frustrating people. Difficult people. I find it hard to access compassion, kindness, or gentleness. Instead, I feel anger, frustration, and sadness. Not peace.

Why is peace so hard? What about compassion and kindness?

Recently, I found comfort from Pema Chodron’s description of her own experience of cultivating love, kindness, compassion, and joy:

“Cultivating these four qualities, love, kindness, compassion, and joy, gives us insight into our current experience. It gives us understanding of the state of our mind and heart right now. We get to know the experience of love and compassion, of joy and kindness, and also of their opposites. We learn how it feels when one of the four qualities is stuck and how it feels when it is flowing freely. We never pretend that we feel anything we don’t. The practice depends on embracing our whole experience. By becoming intimate with how we close down and how we open up, we awaken our unlimited potential.

“It might feel like stretching into make-believe to say, ‘May this person who is driving me crazy enjoy happiness and be free of suffering.’ Probably what we genuinely feel is anger. This practice is like a workout that stretches the heart beyond its current capabilities. We can expect to encounter resistance. We discover that we have our limits: we can stay open to some people, but we remain closed to others. We see both our clarity and our confusion. We are learning firsthand what everyone who has ever set out on this path has learned: we are all a paradoxical bundle of rich potential that consists of both neurosis and wisdom.”

As I practice, I end up coming across my limitations, places where I need to grow and stretch my heart. Like physical exercise, these virtues take effort. When I am in familiar territory, around people I love and enjoy, I can access compassion, peace, and kindness. It comes naturally. However, when I decide to practice all day, every day, I encounter no shortage of opportunities to… well… practice. Even in times of frustration, those frustrations are opportunities for growth.

I am learning that a person of peace has to keep practicing. I need to practice with my spouse, with my children, with my church family, my coworkers, and my friends. It matters.

So, once again, it is time to go out into the world as a practitioner of peace still learning what it is to practice peace:

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved… let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

Compassion, Gratitude

My Compassionate Friend

Several weeks ago, I received an email from a woman I have never met, Kim Fredrickson, a licensed mental health counselor in California. In her email, she said that she had found my articles on self-compassion and asked if I would read her recent book on self-compassion from a Christian perspective, “Give Yourself a Break: Turning Your Inner Critic Into a Compassionate Friend” and pass the book along to anyone that might benefit. Before responding to her request, I read through some of her articles and was deeply touched by her personal story, her courage, and how God is at work in her life. She was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness and has dedicated to live each day of the rest of her life as a testimony to God’s compassion, truth, and grace.Give Yourself A Break

We began to email back and forth and found so much in common, especially a calling to share God’s compassion in a very personal way. Through Kim’s emails, I personally received words of encouragements and prayers over my transition into private practice. Even as I type, I feel so blessed and grateful that God brought Kim into my life as an encourager and mentor.

Last night, I received her new book in the mail and immediately read over half of it. It is wonderful. I was so excited this morning that I jumped out of bed to write this blog! Here is a little taste of a book packed with wisdom, words of grace, and practical ways to apply compassion:

“As children we’re taught to treat others the way we would like to be treated. But as adults, we often need to turn that old maxim around. We’re good at showing compassion to other people – but many of us have trouble showing that same compassion to ourselves.”

“Self-compassion is absolutely essential for healthy, balanced living. It provides huge benefits including emotional resiliency, stress reduction, contentment, and healthier relationships. Without it we are vulnerable to the opinions of others and find it difficult to deal with and let go of our mistakes. It is tough enough to go through a difficult situation, especially when we think we had a part in creating it. It is another kind of torture to never be able to let go of self-criticism and blame… God’s heart is tender toward us in our suffering, frailties, and mistakes. He is our perfect example of balancing truth and grace. He knows we are but dust and is merciful (Ps. 78:38-39).”

I am deeply grateful for my compassionate friend. She has ministered to me personally… and we have never even met. I am deeply grateful for her boldness and courage. I highly recommend her book for anyone who struggles with an inner critic and negative views of self.

I am grateful. God works in marvelous and mysterious ways.

Compassion, Gratitude, Loving Kindness

Letting It Matter

Art by Kelly Rae Roberts
Art by Kelly Rae Roberts

Today I am grateful for a reminder to look for the beauty in everything… even ourselves. I heard sprinkles of wisdom throughout this day: We matter. You matter. I matter. The moments we share together, when we feel seen and understood, can be healing moments that move gently toward healing our world… like a pebble dropped in water that creates concentric circles that get wider and wider.

The first wisdom was a quote from the author of Momastery:

“Look for the mess in others- you’ll find it. Look for the beauty in others- you’ll find it. Seek and you shall find. It’s just the rule. We need to deepen our vision, maybe. Learn to look past the surface and into the depths of people and stories. It’s often quite lovely there.” Glennon Doyle Melton

Then, I listened to Krista Tippet’s interview with Rachel Naomi-Remen. She shared a story her orthodox Jewish grandfather told her as a present for her fourth birthday. It originated in the Kabbalah Jewish tradition:

“In the beginning there was only the holy darkness, the Ein Sof, the source of life. And then, in the course of history, at a moment in time, this world, the world of a thousand thousand things, emerged from the heart of the holy darkness as a great ray of light. And then, perhaps because this is a Jewish story, there was an accident, and the vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke. And the wholeness of the world, the light of the world was scattered into a thousand thousand fragments of light, and they fell into all events and all people, where they remain deeply hidden until this very day.

“Now, according to my grandfather, the whole human race is a response to this accident. We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, to lift it up and make it visible once again and thereby to restore the innate wholeness of the world. It’s a very important story for our times. 

“And this task is called tikkun olam in Hebrew. It’s the restoration of the world. And this is, of course, a collective task. It involves all people who have ever been born, all people presently alive, all people yet to be born. We are all healers of the world. And that story opens a sense of possibility. It’s not about healing the world by making a huge difference. It’s about healing the world that touches you, that’s around you.

“It’s a very old story, comes from the 14th century, and it’s a different way of looking at our power. And I suspect it has a key for us in our present situation, a very important key. I’m not a person who is a political person in the usual sense of that word, but I think that we all feel that we’re not enough to make a difference, that we need to be more somehow, either wealthier or more educated or somehow or other different than the people we are. And according to this story, we are exactly what’s needed. And to just wonder about that a little, what if we were exactly what’s needed? What then? How would I live if I was exactly what’s needed to heal the world?” Rachel Naomi Remen

What if we are enough and exactly what is needed in this moment in time? What if all that matters is the person you happen to be with at any given moment?

Good food. Love. Compassion. Laughter. Tears. Touch. It matters.

Chocolate, Compassion, Dessert, Gratitude

I Am Magdalene

Today I am thankful for:

He Is Risen

Photograph by Cathleen Tarawhiti

1. A moment. She and I together. She has seen too much of life. Five children with several fathers. Time and time again, searching for love and coming up short… She looks at me, smiles, and says, “I am Magdalene.” She knows Jesus. Jesus sees her and loves her for all time. I feel as if I am in the midst of sacred beauty. Joy.

2. Happy Unbirthday. We surprised them again! Our kids came home from school, unsuspecting, to a house filled with decorations and a present for each of us. The Beatles’ Today is Your Birthday blaring on the stereo. “How did you do it again?” our daughter laughs with the biggest smile. Celebrate!

Happy Unbirthday

3. Dark Chocolate Pie! Our unbirthday celebration was made complete with dark, rich, chocolately goodness. Chocolate makes everything better!

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Dark Chocolate Pie

  • 1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1/3 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 4 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a saucepan. Stir in milk gradually. Add chocolate chips and unsweetened chocolate. Place over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir 1 minute. Take off burner.
2. Give the eggs a brief whisk in a separate bowl. Take about a quarter of the chocolate mixture and, working with just a few teaspoons at a time, pour it into the eggs as you whisk continuously. Adding the chocolate mixture this slowly prevents the eggs from being cooked instantly from exposure to heat.
3. Whisk egg yolk mixture back into mixture in saucepan. Place over medium heat and bring back to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil and stir 1 minute. Remove from heat; stir in vanilla extract.
4. Pour mixture into baked pie shell. Press a layer of plastic wrap onto filling. Refrigerate at least 4 hours but no longer than 48 hours. Remove plastic wrap before serving and top with whipped topping.