5 Keys to Resilient Parenting

What emotional and psychological gifts do you wish for children? Perseverance, happiness, kindness, authenticity, compassion, joy? What about resilience? Resilience can be defined as the ability to endure or bounce back from difficulties. Sometimes people define resilience as “toughness,” but true resilience is not impenetrable. In fact, the kind of resilience I am talking about includes compassion and joy.

But just how do we cultivate resilience in children? The answer, of course, begins by cultivating resilience in ourselves. Below I’ve listed five keys to parenting with resilience as well as an example of how each of these keys helped me address an important parenting challenge – my child’s learning disability.


The 5 Keys:

1. Acceptance*  – Types of acceptance include self-acceptance, acceptance of your child and/or family, and acceptance of your life circumstances.

  • Accepting ourselves, our children and others lays a foundation for unconditional love. If you haven’t yet watched my kiwi bird video, it is a great metaphor for learning to accept ourselves and others as we are.
  • Accepting our lives as they are enables us to show up fully, with less resistance and stress.

I do not advocate for acceptance as a form of passive resignation when circumstances are non-optimal. Instead tender acceptance can provide a firm foundation for sustainable growth and change. When my older daughter was having learning difficulties at school, I had to acknowledge her challenge before I could figure out what to do about it. Acceptance allowed me to see that her divergent brain was not a match for mainstream school culture.

*Some people find the word acceptance unpalatable. If so, feel free to substitute the word “acknowledgment,” which is a precursor on the journey to acceptance.


2. Growth – We can complement (self-) acceptance with a desire to grow and change. Sustainable growth and change requires humility. Humility does not mean thinking we are less than others. Quite to the contrary, humility means recognizing that we are on the learning team, just like every other human. It gives us the courage to see that we and our kids have both strengths and weaknesses. Self-compassionate humility can buffer us from defensive and resilience-robbing responses to failure and shame.

Humility allowed me to view both the strengths and weaknesses that accompanied my daughter’s learning differences. The non-linear nature of her thinking was an asset to her creative process, but it was a liability when she was asked to read a block of text or present ideas in a linear sequence. Seeing her divergent brain through a lens of humility allowed me to hold the challenges and gifts side-by-side.

Seeing ourselves and our children as imperfect and beautiful human beings allows us to clearly see the ways that we need to grow and change. This desire to change is stimulated not from a sense of shame or inadequacy, but rather because we love ourselves enough to want what is best for us.


3. Curiosity – What do you do when you and/or your child has a problem that you don’t know how to solve? How do you respond when things are not okay, but you’re not sure where to turn? When panic, confusion, and overwhelm threaten to highjack your brain, curiosity is your ally. Consider the powerful shift curiosity can create: “I wonder how I should respond? I wonder how other parents have addressed problems like this? I wonder who might know more about this kind of thing?” Thinking that there is only one “right way” to solve a problem (and that we are a failure if we can’t find it) is resilience depleting. Wondering about causes, conditions, resources, and potential pathways opens the mind to new possibilities.

I remember well the angst of not knowing how to help my daughter learn to read and process decontextualized academic information. I read books on the topic, talked to professionals and friends, and became curious about how to create a bridge between her way of learning and the school environment. We ended up changing schools, enlisting school support, and hiring outside tutors. It was a long and messy process requiring many of the keys of resilient parenting, including the next one – compassion.


4. Compassion  Stuff happens! Life will go wrong. We and our kids will have problems. Compassion means holding ourselves and others with kindness when we are struggling, and seeking to alleviate suffering whenever possible. Some might think that compassion is the way of weakness; paradoxically it is the main taproot of resilience. If I had to choose only one of the five keys of resilience, it would be compassion. In its tender form, compassion can hold us in our struggles (acceptance), and its strong form it can help us to create positive growth and change. Visit jamielynntatera.com if you’d like to learn more about cultivating compassion and self-compassion in children and families.

Our family needed fierce compassion to find the diagnoses and resources that my older daughter needed for academic success as well as tender (self-) compasion to hold us as she struggled with learning challenges.


5. Soaking in the Good – While struggle is a part of life, so too is beauty. Our negativity bias encourages us to orient toward difficulties, but sustaining resilience requires that we also take in the beautiful moments.

Sometimes we might be afraid to take in the good because good moments can be fleeting. While it’s true that many good things don’t last, it’s precisely because of this that we need to open to their goodness. We are invited to soak in the goodness of our children, ourselves, and our lives as fully as possible so that when the moment passes we retain traces of its goodness. Internalized goodness will make us more resilient when the inevitable challenges of life arise.

The early days of my older daughter’s learning challenges were emotionally draining for her and our family. We had to intentionally remember to focus on her gifts and the places outside of school where she experienced success and joy. After years of interventions, my older daughter now experiences moments of scuccess within the school environment. This past year we were all able to celebrate when she achieved her first report card with straight A’s. Her learning challenges are not over, but we are learning to navigate them with the keys of resilience, including soaking in the good.


When you see this list of five keys to resilience, you might think, “I haven’t mastered those things yet!” Not to worry, you are not alone. The keys are “north stars” on the journey rather than destinations that we can achieve.

If you are cultivating humility (our second key), you will remember that it is essential to be on the learning team. Curiosity (key number three) can help you to discover the next step on your journey. Acceptance and compassion (our first and fourth keys) will be your companions when you inevitably fall short. And when you have those moments that you actually hit the mark, be sure to take in the good (key #5)!

Feel free to reach out to me as you stumble along this brutiful journey of living and loving with resilience.


Your companion on the journey,
Jamie Lynn

Four Steps to Help Kids Grow Self-Compassion

Father son pairHow many of us know someone – an adult, teen or child – who could benefit from the resource of self-compassion? We might think, Wow! That person really needs to be kinder to themselves and stop beating themselves up! 

But what is the best way to help another person to develop the resource of self-compassion? When I contemplate this question, I am reminded of the following quote by Albert Schweitzer: “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”

While helping another individual develop self-compassion involves more than just our example, the power of example cannot be overstated. This is expecially true when it comes to children. The process of helping children grow self-compassion involves four steps, which are built upon the foundation of caregivers’ self-compassion.

Four Steps to Help Children Grow Self-Compassion

  1. Caregivers learn the skill of self-compassion either on their own or alongside their child.
  2. Model self-compassion in the presence of children.
  3. Be the external voice that you want children to internalize.
  4. Children learn and practice offering themselves self-compassion.

STEP 1: Caregivers learn self-compassion.

We can’t help children to acquire a skill that we do not possess. That’s why our first step as caregivers is to grow the personal resource of self-compassion. If, when you were a child, your parents modeled self-compassion and also consistently soothed you when you were struggling, lovingly encouraged you to own your mistakes, appreciated your strengths and supported you in becoming your most authentic self, then it’s likely that you already possess the resource of self-compassion. If you are like the rest of us who received parenting that was somewhat less ideal than the above description, you likely need to do some learning and practicing to acquire the skill of self-compassion. You can strengthen your self-compassionate voice by using adult resources such as Mindful Self-Compassion training and books such as the Mindful Self-Compassion workbook, and/or you can take a parent-child self-compassion class and learn alongside your child. 

STEP 2: Model self-compassion in the presence of children.

Modeling self-compassion as caregivers means that we appropriately name our struggles in the presence of children and model giving ourselves encouraging and/or tender support for our difficulties. This might look like giving ourselves a hug or audibly offering ourselves reassurance or support when we feel distressed. We might let kids know that we are going for a walk, calling a friend, or making ourselves a cup of tea as a kind response to our struggles. When we name and model compassionately responding to our struggles we create a bridge between children and ourselves. Our example lets kids know that it’s okay to struggle and that they can seek out support (including their own kindness) during difficult moments. Our self-compassionate example can then be internalized as a model for children to emulate when they struggle. As caregivers, we need to have our own self-compassion practice (step 1) in order to model self-compassion for children.

STEP 3: Be the external voice that you want children to internalize.

When you speak to children, ask yourself the question: Is this the voice that I want my child to internalize? Is this how I want children to talk to themselves in their own minds? Because children internalize the voice of their caregivers (including tone), as much as possible, we want our words to convey compassion – sometimes tenderly soothing and sometimes encouraging and motivating. When we are successful at speaking to a child in this way, our words contribute to the development of a child’s compassionate voice. When we fall short of this aspiration, as we all do, it becomes an opportunity to acknowledge our human imperfection and offer ourselves compassion. We can show children that just like them, we are on the learning team when it comes to treating ourselves and others with kindness.

STEP 4: Children learn and practice offering themselves self-compassion.

Explicitly teaching children self-compassion and scaffolding their practice can sometimes be tricky, especially when teaching our own children, but it is a vital step. Many caregivers find it helpful to use resources, such as self-compassion books or a parent-child self-compassion class to help children consciously learn and practice the skill of self-compassion. After children have learned self-compassion practices, caregivers can begin to gently and selectively encourage self-compassion practice. When a child is having a difficult moment, it usually works best if caregivers first provide the child with compassionate support, and then, if the child seems receptive, invite the child to offer compassion to themselves. It’s important not to push a child to practice self-compassion as this can have an adverse effect. If a child resists practicing self-compassion, it can be helpful to focus primarily on the first three steps described in this article (increase caregivers’ self-compassion, model self-compassion, and use a compassionate voice with children).

It’s important that we, as caregivers, have a long-term view of children’s self-compassion development. We can normalize and offer ourselves compassion when children develop the resource of self-compassion more slowly than we would wish. It’s important that children know that we are learning and practicing self-compassion along with them, and that it’s self-compassionate to allow ourselves to grow slowly over time.

The Path to Resilience Journaling Challenge

I am formally inviting you (yes you!) on a Path to Resilience Journaling adventure.  I am sharing our first week of the Path to Resilience journaling blog with everyone.  If you would like to receive journaling prompts for future weeks (it is a sixty-day challenge), you can sign up for the challenge here.

Before you begin this journaling challenge, I invite you to consider your “why.”  Why would you want to go on a two-month-long journaling adventure?  What would you like to have more of in your life?  Joy, connection, freedom, strength, hope, well-being?  If you feel so moved, make a list of what you would like to invite more of into your life.  You could use this list of values from NVC to get some ideas.   If you have a moment, go ahead and do this now.

If you have made a list of good things that you would like to invite into your life, this can be your “why.” If you are not up for making a list of good things right now, you can borrow my reason to begin this adventure: following the tips and journaling prompts from the Path to Resilience has helped me to become the best version of myself.

Now…on to week one of our journaling challenge.   On week one of the Path to Resilience, we begin by focusing on mindfulness and our emotions.  As James Baldwin famously said:

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it’s faced.”

Emotions deeply affect the way that we experience life.  And depending on how we relate to our emotions, we will have more or less well-being.  Feel free to click here to watch a two minute video if you would like to hear me explore the concept of well-being as it relates to mindfulness and integration.

In order to experience well-being, we need to be able to integrate our emotions, life experiences, and the various parts of our brain.  The journaling practice for week one helps us to name our emotions so that we can integrate them.   Additionally, the journaling activity for week one includes a hint of gratitude (the science of the inclusion of gratitude is touched on in the video recording below).

So, our adventure begins with a little gratitude and a lot of awareness. Click on the three-minute video below to listen to me explain the week 1 journaling challenge, or if you prefer, you can continue reading below the video.  Be sure to not just listen to the video/read about the journaling challenge, but also try what is suggested.  We have something called “experience-dependent neuroplasticity,” which means that what changes our brain is experience rather than knowledge.

Our journaling prompt begins each day with the phrase, “Today I am grateful for awareness…..”  As the weeks progress, you will be invited to focus on different aspects of your life experience, but for week one we focus on our emotions.

For week one, all that you need to do is pause to remember your “why,” and then write down, “Today I am grateful for awareness…” at the top of a blank sheet of paper.  Go ahead and do this now.  Pause. Now, write down three emotions that you feel and the corresponding trigger (see above example).  Please be sure that at least one of the emotions is negative.  We need to integrate both negative and positive experiences, which means that it is important to be aware of and name both positive and negative emotions.

Please note that when we say that we are grateful for awareness, we are not saying that we are grateful for the things that have caused difficult emotions.  We are simply stating that we are grateful for an awareness of our feelings.  If you don’t feel authentically grateful for an awareness of your emotions, you can denote that as well (I touch on this in the above video).

For week one, this is all that is asked of you each day:  1) Remember your “why” 2) Write “Today I am grateful for awareness….” 3) Write down three emotions that you are feeling in response to situations in your life.  If you like, you could follow up your journaling with a mindful awareness practice such as dropping in, or a kindness practice such as kind wishes. 

If you would like to receive weekly journaling on the Path to Resilience blog and guided practices for the sixty-day challenge, you can sign up for no cost using this link.

If you would like to learn more about the Path to Resilience training you can click here.

I wish you peace, joy, and integration.

Resilience Toolkit

A friend of mine recently sent me an article from the New York Times entitled, Is Resilience Overrated?  As I read the article, I reflected on the many ways that people define resilience.  I looked up the word resilience and found this definition: “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” 

Yes, I thought, if that is how one defines resilience, I can see where a person might think that resiliency is overrated.

I agree that the ability to bounce back from adversity is a hallmark of resilience, but the strategies that one uses to bounce back can make the difference between resilience feeling fatiguing and resilience being uplifting.  I consider myself to be a very resilient person, but the word “toughness” is not part of my working definition of the word.

Long-term resilience involves being able to integrate difficult experiences and then respond skillfully.  But just how, you might ask, does one do that?

To begin, I would like to talk about what resilience is not.  Truthfully, when adversity hits, I oftentimes try my “not resilient” strategies first. Here is what “not resilience” looks like for me: Telling myself there is no problem.  Compulsively doing things that distract me from the problem.  Trying to look on the bright side of things to avoid feeling difficult feelings.  Repeat.  When I experience something challenging in my life, I oftentimes practice “not resilience” until I become too anxious or too tired to continue.  Then, I surrender to reality and turn toward my resiliency toolkit.

My resilience toolkit includes the following:

        1. Talking with friends
        2. Journaling
        3. Getting angry and sad and scared and messy
        4. Cloaking myself with kindness and compassion
        5. Practicing yoga or exercising to get into my body and out of my head
        6. Spending time in nature
        7. Gathering resources
        8. Continuing to take steps forward, often with the support of friends
        9. Beginning to hope, take in the good, and see silver linings
        10. Experiencing another setback
        11. Repeat
        This resilience toolkit creates resilience that is both sustainable and uplifting.  It is something that I can go back to again and again when life gets messy and hard.  Setbacks in life are inevitable, and a supportive resilience toolkit cannot be overrated.

The Healing Power of AND

If you are like me, you are on a roller coaster of feelings during this coronavirus time at home.  Sometimes, I momentarily forget about the virus while walking in nature or laughing with my kids, and then suddenly I remember once again. Hope, grief, sadness, joy and despair flicker in and out of my awareness.  I experience moments of awe at the way we are working together in community.  Other times I feel loneliness and worry about the physical and social isolation—both for myself and for others. 

During these challenging times, I remind myself again and again to create space for AND.  AND what? you might ask.  By AND, I mean allowing for both sadness and joy.  Loneliness and connection.  Despair and hope.  If we don’t create space for all of it, we run the risk of either anxiously clinging to positivity, or conversely, wallowing in despair.

Creating space for AND involves: A = Allowing the full range of emotions and becoming Aware of the present moment.  N = Nurturing—nurturing ourselves as we struggle, and nurturing a healthy mind that is also able to see what is good.  D = Discovering.  We can cultivate curiosity to move beyond our typical ways of responding and discover new and beautiful possibilities.  Allow, Nurture, and Discover (AND).

It’s not easy to open to all of our emotions.  Yoga, mindfulness, self-compassion and growing the good all help.  It also helps to journal and pick up the phone to call a friend to remember that we are not alone.  There are a lot of things that we cannot control in this situation, but practicing AND paves the way for a healthier emotional life and a more peaceful mind.