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Parenting with PACEs. PACEs science & stories. Trauma-informed change.

How to Become a Compassionate Parent


There are many benefits to learning how to feel your emotions.  One is it helps you become a more compassionate, empathetic parent.

The weekend before I flew to Iceland, I pulled my luggage out of our storage room and came across the boxes I’m saving for my girls.  These boxes contain all of my daughters’ art, birthday decorations, cards, diaries, etc., from the time they were little girls.

It was a family weekend, so we all decided to go through these mementoes together.  It was a sweet experience, but also a sad one when my daughter, Sabrina, found a journal she’d written in elementary school.  While reading a few pages out loud, she was flooded with painful memories.  She had written this journal during a time when I was so busy with my life that she had felt invisible.  

Sabrina was triggered by this painful memory and expressed it.  As you can imagine, it was hard for me to hear.  But rather than reacting defensively, I sat with her and let her cry it out.

Parenting isn’t easy for survivors of child abuse.  When my girls were in elementary school, I hadn’t started my healing journey.  I was still trapped in my trauma.  Back then, I couldn’t allow them to express their painful feelings of emotional abandonment.  But now I can.  

This is what compassionate parenting looks like.  You can help your children feel and release their painful memories, too.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Don’t react defensively, flinch, or dismiss their pain.
  • Sit with your children and allow them to feel their emotions and express them.
  • Allow yourself to feel your children’s painful emotions, too.
  • Tell your children you feel their pain, hear them, and see them.
  • Tell your children you know the past hurt them, and you’re sorry.
  • Tell your children you’ll never shame them for expressing their feelings.
  • Tell your children it’s okay to express painful feelings about their past.
  • Listen to your children with all your heart.
  • Give them your total attention, support, and love.


Like me, I’m sure you wish you could have been a more compassionate parent in the past.  But the past is gone, and things have changed.  Now you have the opportunity to create new, healthy, happy memories as a family.  Today is a great day to start!  


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This brought a tear to my eye. Thank you for being so honest and hopeful. It must have been painful to hear you weren't there for your daughter, but it sounds like you got a chance to re-parent her in the way you were able to respond. That's so hopeful and realistic because parenting is hard and we often don't know what we don't or didn't know, til later. But it is not too late. Thank you for this. 

I'm sharing on Facebook, too. 


Thanks for this very concrete and useful post and list!  I so appreciate you saying we cant go back to change our parenting but we def can choose today to "create new healthy memories as a family. Today we can begin again!

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