Shame, Kids, and Grown-Ups

When I make a mistake, oftentimes shame is in the room.

If you have taken the Feelings Habit Animal Quiz and read my article about the four feelings habit animals, you might remember that the deer is the feelings habit animal that is most correlated with shame.*

Deer

Because one of my primary feelings habits is Deer, when I make a mistake, I am apt to feel shame. And this past week when I realized that over 100 subscribers have not been receiving my emails for the past two months (my apologies if you’re one of those subscribers), I felt a wash of shame.

Here’s the good news and the bad news about shame.

First the bad news: shame is a very sticky and challenging emotion that is often paired with the fear that we are unlovable.

Now the good news: shame is an innocent emotion, and we can help ourselves unhook from it by reminding ourselves of shame’s fear and reaffirming our own lovability.

And now the very good news: if we can get good at addressing shame’s core fear and soothing ourselves when we feel it, we can help kids to do the same.

Walking my Kids (and Myself) through Shame’s Fear

So, here’s how I worked through shame in the presence of my kids.

Giraffe - Spots

Spots the Giraffe is my resilience habit animal for noticing. First I “spotted” my emotion. Because I’m a self-compassion teacher, my kids are very used to me spotting and naming my feelings. In this case, I spotted shame.

Next, I recognized shame’s fear—that I am unlovable. Because my shame-prone feelings habit animal is Deer, I allowed my little deer puppet to be my symbol for shame.

Note: My kids are already very familiar with the feelings habit animals and Deer’s tendency to feel shame because they helped me to create The Quest for Self-Compassion Workbook that features all of these delightful animals.

Luckily, it was time for dinner, and my husband was out on a run. So it was just me and the girls at the dinner table. And I brought my deer with me.

My daughters and I started eating dinner, and while we were eating, I began petting my deer puppet. My daughters raised their eyebrows at me (I’m odd, but I don’tregularly pet my deer puppet at the dinner table). I explained that I had made a mistake and that over 100 people had not been receiving my newsletters. I let them know that my deer was feeling very ashamed and that Deer was afraid that it was not lovable because it had made a mistake.

My daughters and I talked a little about the mistake, and then I modeled the Snuggles habit.

Bunny, named Snuggles, Resilience Habit Animal

Snuggles the Bunny is the resilience habit animal that helps us to be kind to ourselves. I began talking to my Deer puppet in front of my kids. I petted my deer and told Deer that even though it had made a mistake, it was still lovable. My younger daughter actually gave me a hug, and then I let my daughters know what I was doing to address the newsletter problem. After that, the dinner conversation shifted to another topic.

This might not sound like a big deal, but I did three things during this brief interaction with my kids.

  1. I taught my kids how to notice and name shame in a nonjudgmental and compassionate way.
  2. I taught them about shame’s core fear—that we are unlovable as we are.
  3. I showed them how we can soothe our shame with the Snuggles habit, reassuring our Deer (and ourselves) that we are still lovable even when we fall short.

Powerful lessons at the dinner table ;).

*Note: In my work with children, I have learned that the feelings habit animals are as important, or perhaps even more important than the resilience habit animals. This is because we need to develop nonjudgmental awareness of our feelings habits in order to practice resilience habits.

Two Ways to Boost Your Own Resilience

Watch my Resilience Habit Videos on Social Media

Would you like to see short videos of me modeling the ideas from my blogs? If so, follow me on social media and Youtube. My Facebook and Instagram handle is @jamielynntatera. You can watch me use my props to share kid-friendly strategies for dealing with tricky emotions and building resilience habits. Plus, I feel super happy when I get to connect with you in more places.

Sign up for the Path to Resilience Journaling Challenge

The Path to Resilience is my signature resilience training, and I’ve created a free Path to Resilience journaling challenge to help ensure that resilience strategies are available to everyone (including you!).  Sign up for the journaling challenge for free, and you’ll receive access to exclusive blogs, videos and guided meditations designed to help you build resilience habits. Always remember that your child’s resilience begins with you.

Thanks for caring so much about you and your child’s resilience. You are doing awesome and you are making a BIG difference!

Wishing you Light, Love, and Playfulness,

Jamie Lynn

 

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What to Do When You’re Beating Yourself Up

Personal disclosure: last week I spent a lot of time beating myself up internally. The reason was pretty innocent: I have been doing a lot of teaching lately, which has left little time for other aspects of my work (like writing this newsletter). Because investing time in helping people discover my work is very important to me (I can only help parents help kids if I can expand my reach), my inner critic was saying unkind things about my time limitations.

To make matters worse, I am a SELF-COMPASSION teacher. Yes, the self-compassion teacher was beating the bananas out of herself internally. This could easily become a shame spiral, but luckily I do have a self-compassion practice that reminds me that everyone beats themselves up sometimes (even self-compassion teachers).

Now that I am somewhat on the other side, I will share with you the tools I used to respond to my intense self-criticism. And I’ll use the Resilience Habit Animals to describe my process (I use the animals when I teach kids, but they are great for grown-ups, too!). If you didn’t yet read my article on the Resilience Habit Animals, you can do so now for a little background.

Resilience Habit Animals

Spots the Mindful Giraffe

So, my first step was to “spot” that I was beating myself up. This might seem obvious, but there’s a big difference between being stuck in the drama of beating myself up, and being the observer. The Spots habit is being the observer. I had to see clearly that I was being unkind to myself. I also noticed that I was feeling sad because instead of feeling happy about all of the teaching I’m doing (a great opportunity for soaking in joy), I was feeling stressed and criticized. Ugh!

Doodles the Helpful Dolphin and Buddy the Dog

The inner critic can be a tricky inner part to contend with because it’s laced with shame. I don’t like to deal with shame on my own, so I called a friend. I told her what was happening. This is a combo of the Doodles the Dolphin habit—I took a helpful action, and the Buddy habit. Calling a friend quite literally made me not alone. I also practiced the Buddy habit when I reminded myself that everyone beats themselves up sometimes (even self-compassion teachers).

Understanding the Critic

My conversation with my friend made a lot of things clearer. Truthfully, my friend didn’t say a lot to me, but she gave me space to explore the motivations of my inner critic.

Here’s what I discovered: my inner critic was beating me up relentlessly because this part of me felt very scared. I’ll be doing a lot of teaching for the next few months, and my critic is afraid that I’m not doing the right things to let people know about the Quest for Self-Compassion Workbook that will be coming out in October. I’ll spare you the details, but there’s a lot that goes into spreading the word, and my primary job for the next few months is to teach in schools and online. My inner critic does not want to accept time limitations. You can see my post on being finite; time limitations is something my inner critic refuses to accept. 

Snuggles the Bunny

Once I really understood the critic, I actually felt a little compassion for it. Even though it was beating me up, its motivations were good. That being said, it was still beating me up! I gave myself compassion because it’s hard when the critic is active. I know I’m not the only person who suffers with this. I also know that trying to make the critic’s voice go away is unhelpful. What we resist persists.

But, I don’t have to let the inner critic’s voice be the only voice. After I got off the phone with my friend, I spent two minutes saying kind and encouraging words to myself. And I decided that I would do this each day for the next week. Truthfully, I forgot yesterday, but I did talk to myself kindly for two minutes again today. Two minutes might not sound like a lot, but go ahead and set a timer and try it. I told myself things like, “You’re doing great” (it’s true!), and “It’s okay to prioritize teaching right now and let other things wait until I have more time.” I asked myself what I might say to a friend, and I said those things to myself. And when I ran out of things to say, I repeated the same things again. The inner critic is usually a negative message on repeat, so it’s absolutely okay to repeat the same nice things over and over again.

Growing the Voice of Kindness

Moving forward I will likely continue to experience the voice of the critic because the critic has a really hard time understanding time limitations, and the critic really values aspects of my work that I don’t have much time for right now. But I don’t have to deal with the critic alone (I can talk about it with my trusted people), and I can also intentionally practice my kind, understanding voice each day.

If you’ve got a strong inner critic, please know that you are not alone. The critic is often a misguided inner voice with a positive intention to motivate us with a host of unhelpful strategies. We can name it, share about it with others, and we can grow a second, kinder voice.

Mindful Self-Compassion – 20% off online MSC in February!

I have learned to deal with my inner critic through taking and teaching Mindful Self-Compassion (MSC) training. If you haven’t yet taken MSC training, I’ll be teaching a live-online class through the Center for MSC that starts next week.

I’m also offering a special 20% discount on my self-paced online MSC class during the month of February (use the coupon code loveFeb) because you deserve to learn to treat yourself with love and kindness! Visit https://jamielynntatera.com/mindful-self-compassion-training/ to register or learn more about Mindful Self-Compassion training.

With Love,

Jamie Lynn

P.S. Here’s a photo of my 15-year-old daughter and me hiking together. It was so beautiful!

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Meet the Resilience Habit Animals

Kids learn best through play! That’s because it’s easier to pay attention to playful things, and also because the neurotrophic factors the brain produces during play make it easier to remember what you’ve learned.

In previous articles, I have shared about the Feelings Habit Animals (take the Quiz!). The relatable feelings animals provide a playful way to get kids to talk about feelings. But not only do we want kids to be aware of feelings, we also want them to learn to how to skillfully respond. Enter the Resilience Habit Animals.

The Four Resilience Animals

The resilience habit animals are featured in the Quest for Self-Compassion Workbook Series. In my work with kids, I have found the resilience animals so effective in playfully teaching resilience habits, that I now use them in my parent-child self-compassion class, in schools, and in my private work with kids and families.

Watch a one-minute clip my daughters and I made about the four animals!

There are four resilience animals: Spots the Giraffe, Buddy the dog, Snuggles the Bunny, and Doodles the Dolphin. Spots helps us to spot our feelings and our five senses, and Buddy reminds us that we’re not alone in our struggles. Snuggles comforts us when things go wrong, and Doodles helps us take helpful actions. There’s also Sunny who reminds us that goodness is omnipresent.

It’s always been a challenge to get kids to practice self-compassion in daily life. But when I ask kids how Spots, Snuggles, Doodles or Buddy might respond to a challenge, I actually get kids to engage. And I am beyond delighted when kids later report that they have practiced the “Buddy habit” or the “Snuggles habit.”

Stay tuned for more details about each of the resilience animals. I plan share about how to help kids learn each of the four resilience habits. Together we can help kids playfully learn to cope with challenging feelings, and thrive!

Warmly,

Jamie Lynn (with Anjali and Maya’s video help :))

Three Simple Ways to Help Kids Grow Self-Compassion

Sitting mother is embracing her daughter

This article originally appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.

When I teach self-compassion to kids in schools, I do an exercise in which kids imagine that a friend of theirs has lost or broken something special. How would they respond to their friend?

I then ask a second question: How would you respond to yourself if you lost or broke something special? I invite kids to consider the difference between their responses to the two questions. Feel free to consider these questions yourself.

“I would help my friend lift themselves up, but if I lost it, I would never forgive myself.” —Marcos, age 12

“I have compassion for a friend, and I feel angry at myself.” 
—River, age 9

“I almost explode when it happens to me, but I know it will pass when it happens to my friend.” 
—Abbie, age 12

When I teach children (and adults) self-compassion, most say they would offer their friend encouragement, but they would be angry at themselves. Kids, just like grownups, need the resource of self-compassion.

When we practice self-compassion, we treat ourselves with the same kindness that we would offer a friend when things go wrong. This includes soothing ourselves when we struggle and motivating ourselves with kindness. Whereas a habit of self-criticism increases anxiety and depression, adolescents who practice self-compassion become less anxious and depressed. Self-compassion helps kids cope better with challenges and experience more well-being and self-esteem.

But just how do we help kids to develop an inner self-compassionate voice? Here are three ways to do that.

Be the voice that you want kids to internalize

The way we talk to kids makes a big difference in how kids talk to themselves. When kids have repeated experiences of being validated and cared for, the external support can become internalized as an inner self-compassionate voice. Research suggests that when parents are supportive and empathic, their kids learn to respond to themselves with kindness. Meanwhile, parents who are critical of their children are more likely to have kids who are self-critical.

A good question we can ask ourselves when we are addressing a child is this: Is this the voice that I want this child to internalize? Is this how I wish for children to respond to themselves? Some phrases you might consider using include the following:

  • You’re feeling sad/mad about that. It makes sense that you feel that way. I sometimes feel like that, too.
  • I see you’re having a hard time. How can I support you?
  • I’m here for you. I care about you. You’re not alone.

What do we do when our voice is not the voice that we want children to internalize? Ironically, we need to give compassion to ourselves. Being hard on ourselves when we fall short as caregivers can be just as counterproductive as being hard on children. When we struggle with showing up as we wish for children, we can offer ourselves the three elements of self-compassion, saying phrases like these aloud or in our heads:

  1. Mindfulness: I’m struggling right now.
  2. Common humanity: I’m not the only one who struggles like this.
  3. Kindness: I’m still a good person, and I can try again.

Model self-compassion (it’s good for you, too!)

Sometimes parents think that they are supposed to model “having it all together” for their children. Ironically, kids who see “perfect parents” aren’t being equipped with the skills they need to cope with their own imperfections. Children need caregivers who are appropriately vulnerable with their struggles and model self-compassion. This could be as simple as naming that we are having a hard day and that everyone sometimes struggles like us.

Sometimes caregivers don’t have the skills of self-compassion to model. Luckily, caregivers can learn self-compassion on their own through programs like Mindful Self-Compassion training or by doing The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook. Caregivers can also learn self-compassion along with their children. The Self-Compassion for Children and Caregivers program is an approved adaptation of the Mindful Self-Compassion program that I designed to be offered to kids along with their caregivers.

In the program, parent-child pairs are co-learners as they playfully practice mindfulness and self-compassion skills together. Each session includes parent-child sharing, mindful movement, a comic with animal friends, and interactive self-compassion exercises. A popular exercise from our first session involves the following supplies: a plate, different colored crayons, and a washcloth (or tissue). The plate represents our awareness, and the crayons represent different emotions. During the exercise, parent-child pairs talk about the emotions that they have in response to different scenarios, including taking a self-compassion class together (some kids are less than thrilled at the outset!). As parent-child pairs share about each emotion, they add a different colored crayon to the plate. They then identify the challenging emotions, such as frustration or sadness, and wrap those emotional crayons in the washcloth—metaphorically “hugging” difficult emotions in self-compassion.

Research finds that children who complete the program decrease in depression, and caregivers also see benefits, including less parenting stress and more mindful parenting and self-compassion. In this way, learning self-compassion together can provide intergenerational benefits and increase the parent-child connection. One parent who attended the class with her nine-year-old daughter said:

This [class] opened up conversations about our feelings and gave us a common set of concepts. I feel like it created a stronger bond and connection, and I especially loved the emphasis on accepting weaknesses . . . and that everyone won’t find the same things soothing or helpful and that it is OK. A very helpful framework moving forward to help us communicate about our feelings, and a reminder of the need to focus on the good. I feel like it has made me a more empathetic parent.

Playfully teach and compassionately scaffold kids’ self-compassion practice

For caregivers who would like to teach children self-compassion–related habits, it’s helpful to begin by learning and embracing our own habits around feelings. The Feelings Habit Animal Quiz provides a great way for parents (or teachers) and kids to begin to talk about their current feeling habits: Do you hide feelings (chameleon), explode with feelings (bear), obsess about feelings (beaver), or feel ashamed of feelings (deer)? In my work with children, I have found that kids open up to talking about feelings when it’s approached in this playful and non-judgmental way.

After kids are aware of their feeling habits, they can begin to consciously learn self-compassion–related resilience skills. Because it’s hard for kids to learn during moments of stress, caregivers can playfully teach children how to integrate the three components of self-compassion (mindfulness, common humanity, and self-kindness) during moments of well-being. Caregivers can use resources such as the playful series of self-compassion activity books entitled The Quest for Self-Compassion, which I use with children in both home and school. There are also delightful children’s books, such as It’s Okay: Being Kind to Yourself When Things Feel Hard.

After children have learned resilience skills, caregivers can compassionately scaffold the use of these skills during difficult moments. It works best when caregivers first compassionately respond to a child’s distress and then offer a gentle suggestion of how children might be kind to themselves. For example, you could suggest they try a self-hug or think about what words they would offer to a friend in a similar situation.

If kids are not open to practicing self-compassion, it’s important not to push them. Just offering your own kind presence will help kids grow self-compassion over time.

At first, it can feel awkward to treat ourselves with kindness. Discomfort is normal any time we learn something new, but this gets better with time. Just like it takes practice to learn to ride a bike or do math, so too it takes practice to develop a self-compassionate voice.

In the classroom, I playfully explain both the challenges and payoff of practicing self-compassion. I ask children if they’d be willing to practice something hard, such as writing with their opposite hand, if it meant that they would have their best friend with them every day for the rest of their life. I usually receive an enthusiastic “Yes!” to this question. I then let kids know that while this is not true about writing with their opposite hand, it is true about self-compassion. If kids keep practicing self-compassion, they will have their best friend with them every day for the rest of their lives…because they will become their own best friend.

Note from Jamie Lynn: Please share this blog and/or the Greater Good article with others! Self-compassion not only makes kids more resilient, but the kindness ripples out into our relationships with others to create a more wonderful world!

Wishing you Joy and Self-Compassion,

Jamie Lynn

What is Your Feelings Habit Animal?

There is nothing that can get a group of kids to roll their eyes like talking to them about feelings. The topic of feelings for most kids (and many grown-ups) is boring at best and painful at worst.

When I instead begin the conversation about feelings by introducing the four feelings habit animals, I get a very different response from children: curiosity. When I show kids my deer, bear, beaver and chameleon feelings habit animals, and I talk about my own feelings habits, kids become curious about their own tendencies. Then I have them take the feelings habit animal quiz.

Children with their feelings habit animal

Many Possibilities…

Six simple questions can give kids and grown-ups clues about their feelings habits. Even though the questions are simple, our responses can be varied. You might have multiple responses to a single question because part of you feels one way, and another part of you feels a different way.

Here’s a personal example of having multiple emotions in response to a situation: When my husband gets very busy with work and doesn’t have time to spend with me, a part of me feels indifferent or even happy. His busyness gives me time work on my own projects and do whatever I want to do. However, another part of me thinks that he doesn’t love me. The second part is a small, child-like part of me that is not rational, but it is still there. So if, “Your friend is too busy to play with you” were a question on the quiz, I would put two answers (“I don’t care” and “I think they don’t like me”) because both are aspects of my internal response.

Take the Feelings Habit Animal Quiz

If you didn’t yet take the 6-question Feelings Habit Animal quiz, I’d invite you to do so now. Answer the questions as you would have when you were a child, and discover your childhood feelings habit animal. Then take it with your child and get curious how each of you would respond now. Many of us have more than one feelings habit, so if you write down your responses (a, b, c, d and/or e) on a piece of paper as you go along, you will get a fuller picture of your feelings habits, which might include multiple animals.

Feelings Habit Animal Quiz

Note:  The Feelings Habit Animal Quiz comes from The Quest for Self-Compassion Activity books, which will be available in October 2024.

What are the 4 Feelings Habits?

The quiz results for the four feelings habit animals are described below.

Beaver

If you chose mostly A’s, your feelings habit animal is a beaver. Emotions can be sticky for you. Your mind replays situations over and over. A sticky mind can be tricky, but it can also be STRONG.

Bear

If you chose mostly B’s, your feelings habit animal is a bear. You feel BIG feelings. It’s healthy to feel our feelings, but big feelings can sometimes be difficult to manage. Being sensitive can also be a gift.

Chameleon

If you chose mostly C’s, your feelings habit animal is a chameleon. You can sometimes hide from your emotions or distract yourself from tricky feelings. It can cause difficulties when we avoid our emotions, but being able to focus our attention away from our feelings can also be helpful.

Deer

If you chose mostly D’s, your feelings habit animal is a deer. You sometimes feel scared of difficult feelings or think you’re bad. Shame can be a tricky emotion, but just like you, we all wish to be loved. Your care for others can also be a strength.

Other

If you chose mostly E’s, you can choose an animal that matches your feelings habits. How do you normally respond to your feelings? It’s common for our habits to be tricky in some ways and helpful in other ways.

Often people who choose E have a habit of either problem-solving or looking on the bright side when presented with challenges. Problem-solving can sometimes be a resilience habit, and sometimes it can be a form of avoiding feelings (see chameleon). Similarly, looking on the bright side of things can sometimes be a resilience habit, and it can also be a form of upbeat denial if it is coupled with avoidance of difficult emotions.

What do I DO about my feelings habits?

When adults learn about their feelings habit animals, they often want to be handed a “how to solve my feelings habit animal” prescription. Many adults view their feelings habit animals as a problem needing to be solved. I haven’t encountered the same response from most kids. Kids generally appreciate having a playful way to describe their feelings habits, and they like knowing that they are not alone in having these habits.

If you are looking for a fast fix, I would invite you to pause. Taking this quiz with a child offers a way for grown-ups and kids to identify their habits and can facilitate a caregiver-child connection. Helping kids understand that they are not alone in having a hard time with emotions creates an environment where adults and kids can learn and grow side-by-side.

Sometimes when I give kids the quiz, there are kids that try to put what they perceive to be the “correct answer” in the “e” response. Interestingly enough, when I share my own feelings habit animals, kids start to practice a little more self-honesty.

Sharing our Feelings Habit Animals

My feelings habit animals are a bear, a beaver, and a deer. I am a very sensitive person, and my brain can be very sticky. I am also prone to feeling shame about all sorts of things (goes along with the sensitivity and sticky brain). These habits can be liabilities, and they can also be gifts. I wouldn’t be the teacher I am today without my unique blend of feelings habits.

What about you, what are your feelings habit animals? If you’re willing to share your habit animals in the comments, it can help us all feel connected. Remembering that we are not alone in our struggles is a kindness that can contribute to resilience over time.

Wishing you light and love,

Jamie Lynn

Learn more about self-compassion for kids and caregivers and sign up for Resilient ParentingParent-Child Self-Compassion, or adult Mindful Self-Compassion classes with Jamie Lynn.