Say Cheese!

by Jessica Kilpatrick, MA, LPC – Director of Training and Program Development

woman with phone.jpg

We all know what it feels like to post something on social media and watch the “likes” spill in. It’s a great feeling right? We have a need to connect and to be accepted by our family and our peers. We post a cute picture of our adorable kid and then we wait for someone to accept that yes, in fact they are adorable. It can often even be more than a check-in about how cute our kid is and become a check-in about how we are doing as parents. Let’s be honest, sometimes it lets us know if we are doing okay as people. I get it. We need to connect and we are doing the best we can in this world of social media and lack of physical connection with our friends. It’s much easier to look through someone’s account than it is to meet up for a lunch date. Who has time for a lunch date anymore? I think that social media serves a purpose and it can be connecting, but I think that at times it can also pull us further away from connection.

The other day I was working from a coffee shop and I watched as a woman and her very young child sat down outside at a table. The mother had her latte and her child had his apple juice. I have a thing for toddlers (I think it’s the chubby cheeks and the waddle) so I of course was fixated on this little cutie and the potential for an adorable mommy/son breakfast date. What happened instead was really sad to me. The mother and child didn’t speak or have any interaction. Instead, she would occasionally take out her phone and take a picture of herself and her son together. I would then see her excitedly posting on her social media. I  could just imagine what she was posting, “A beautiful day for a coffee date with my little man!” In reality there was no date because there was no interaction. The day was as beautiful as her intentions were as she left the house that day, but the opportunity was lost.

Now, I remember what it was like to have child that age and I completely sympathize with this mother. She probably spends all day with this kid and all she wants is a coffee break once in awhile! I feel her. It did however, bring up for me the feeling that we are getting more and more disconnected when we try to create a moment with our kids instead of being in that moment with them. Talking to our kids and engaging them in play is what creates language as well as social and emotional development. We feel connected and they feel loved. Yes, our phones can send us love in the form of a photo and a heart symbol, but I doubt it’s going to make a lasting impact on who we are and who are children become.

What would it be like to worry more about the quality of our relationships than what our relationships look like to others on social media? I think we all can take more breaks and find more opportunities to play and be silly with the ones we love.  Our bodies and our brains have not forgotten what true connection feels like! We have everything we need within us to be there for our kids and to be present within our own lives, we just have to remember to be intentional in our daily lives.

Accepting “No”: Mindful Parenting

by Jessica Kilpatrick, MA, LPC- STARRY Director of Training and Program Development

Acceptance is a struggle for many of us. We want to examine, complain, look for resources, try to find a quick fix, complain some more, lay awake worrying, find someone else to blame and then give up. When you have a challenging child it’s very hard to slow down. It’s hard to find this so-called “balance”.

“Just think about it. If young children live in the present and adults spend most of their time in the past or in the future, we have abandoned our children to some degree.”- Becky Bailey, I Love You Rituals 

Sometimes everything we try to do to help our children actually takes us away from them. When it’s hard to accept where our child is today, mindful parenting asks us to take some deep breaths, look at what’s around us, lean in, and a. Accepting the struggle seems to lead us to better ideas and most of all better connection with our kids. When many of us feel discomfort, we run in the other direction. How do we change how we feel when we don’t even know how we feel? We do everything in our power to avoid, to escape, to hide. We see a behavior and we want to control it, to change it. When we do this, we block ourselves off to both pain and joy. We forget to laugh when our kid does something hilarious, or console them when they are sad. Instead, we shut down. Parenting is hard and when we don’t have the tools to do hard things, we get overwhelmed and we forget to live, to breath, to cry, and to laugh.

We have to learn to accept “no” so we can finally accept our child. Accepting “no” means:

No, my child isn’t easy. No, my child isn’t typical. No, my child isn’t perfect. No, my child isn’t going to get better overnight. No, my child can’t solve all of his problems alone. No, my child isn’t well behaved in public. No I’m not a perfect parent. 

How can we expect our children to accept themselves when we are a tornado of chaos focusing all of our insecurities and stress onto them? Practice with me, “My child is on a healing journey just like I am. We are imperfect and I accept that fact. I will work to help my child, but I will not waste our time together constantly trying to fix him. I will stare into this beautiful face and remember that we are all doing the best we can with what we have. I will be here in this moment.”

Once we accept “no” we can begin to accept “yes”.  We begin to see that our relationship can be a powerful tool of healing.  We learn to accept our circumstances and most of all, we learn to accept our child. Acceptance doesn’t mean we ignore the issue, it means we don’t lose ourselves in it. It means we don’t let the struggle overwhelm our love for our children. We won’t solve all of our problems today and even if we did it would be something different tomorrow. When we aren’t entangled we can stay calm. Don’t forgot the idea of the “good enough parent” (Donald Winnicott, 1953). This parent isn’t perfect, but he works to be attuned to his child’s needs.  He can’t fix everything and that is okay.

We have to forgive ourselves and others for our imperfections. When we do this we are able to truly help our child.  Breathe, lean in, accept, let go, repeat. When we learn to work through this process, the healing can begin.

Dr. Karyn Purvis

Yesterday we lost our beloved mentor and friend, Dr. Karyn Purvis. Although none of us knew her personally, Karyn made it a point to make everyone she met feel completely connected with her. She “saw our preciousness” and she believed in our ability to do great things for children. We couldn’t help but fall in love. She was a kind, brave, and inspiring woman who taught all of us how to reach the heart of “children from hard places.” Trust-Based Relational Intervention® has given us the roadmap we all longed for to help children begin to heal. Her work continues to revolutionize the Children at Heart family of ministries. Dr. Purvis used every ounce of who she was to help us to learn to “connect, empower, and correct” our children. We are honored and humbled by the responsibility we have to continue the work of Dr. Purvis and we are forever grateful for this opportunity. We miss Dr. Purvis already and we rest knowing that she is with her Heavenly Father.

May God bless the TCU Institute of Child Development and all of the people who serve children and families through their work.

Dr. Purvis

Attachment at a Glance

by Jessica Kilpatrick, MA, LPC – Program Support Specialist

Kids tend to get hurt quite a lot. They fall down, they bump their head, they pinch their finger in a door; such is life for small children.  One way that I have been able to get a glimpse into other parent’s attachment style, as well as my own, is how we react in these stressful times. Let’s see how attachment styles can play a part in this situation. Parent A yells, “Get up, you’re fine!”, while Parent B shrieks, runs over to the child, whisks them up and in a panicked voice says, “You poor baby. Oh my God!  Are you okay? Let’s head to the Emergency Room.”

Parent A thinks Parent B is ridiculous and Parent B thinks Parent A is cold-hearted.  Parent A struggles with showing empathy and giving care, while Parent B struggles with knowing who they are apart from others. The interesting thing is that often they love their children just as much as the other parent, they just show it in different ways. When we live in the extremes of being Dismissive (Parent A) or Entangled(Parent B), we often struggle to see a better way to connect with our children. Our old habits that we inherited as children pop up in these moments of panic.  Our organic, reactive responses in this moment come from our history.

So, where’s the middle ground?  How do we find balance?

The secure parent or earned secure parent works to comfort the child, without making the child’s pain their own pain. The secure parents tries to remember that their child’s pain is valid and needs attention, but that in the midst of chaos they can know that they themselves are okay. This leads us to Parent C. Parent C approaches the child with concern, touches them gently and says something like, “Wow, you really bumped your head.  That looked like it hurt. Are you doing okay? ” This parent is present, calm, and responsive. If the child needs a kiss, a hug, a band-aid they meet that need with empathy.

The parent with Secure Attachment is what many believe to be the goal, but we aren’t perfect parents. The hopeful thing to remember is that there is so much power in knowing our tendencies and being aware of how our history plays a part in how we parent. So much healing can come just from noticing when we are being dismissive or avoidant and then challenging ourselves to try new ways of approaching the situation.  For the entangled parent this may mean saying to yourself, “His feelings are his feelings and I can be here to comfort him if I remain calm.” For the dismissive parent this might mean saying to ourselves, “He needs my help right now and through me showing him empathy he will learn to comfort others and himself in the future.”

Through time, these responses become more comfortable and natural. The first step is to notice your natural inclination without judgment or shame.  I find it helpful to find others to talk with about this journey. Many parents find it healing to have others admit their imperfections, too. The struggle is real, but it is normal!

To learn more about attachment styles and parenting you can visit

The Magic Touch

A few nights ago my husband and I took our daughter to P. Terry’s to eat and play in the sandbox. My daughter loves playing in sand, but this time her behavior was very different than normal. She was acting like a dog trying to itch it’s back. She had her head, her arms, and her face in the sand rolling around like a pig in the mud. “What in the world is she doing”, I thought to myself. I quickly realized that because of her latest fashion obsession, her thick panty hose were blocking her from feeling the sand. It dawned on me that because she couldn’t feel the sand beneath her feet and between her toes, she needed to dive into the sand to get the tactile experience on her exposed skin that she craved. This short experience of sensory deprivation was such a great example of how some children with sensory processing disorder can feel most of the time.  Our tactile system is simply our sense of touch.  Some children have difficulty getting enough input from their tactile system. If they cannot get the input that their body needs we can often see unusual or extreme behavior to compensate for this deprivation. For some kids they may show what looks like aggressive, ADHD, or impulsive behavior.  When we see these sensory seeking behaviors as bad behavior or defiance, we not only likely to handle it inappropriately, but we miss a chance to meet a need. Remember that meeting needs builds trust and creates attachment. Sensory needs are a need that we can meet when we get creative. Here are some fun everyday ways to provide sensory input for the tactile system:

– let you child walk barefoot in the grass

– let you child play with their food

– make mud pies

– play in the rain

– let your child help you make dinner and allow them to feel all of the ingredients

– let your child peel their own banana or unwrap their own snack

– bury toys in the sand and let your child find them

– build castles out of rocks

– play tickle monster (be careful with this one, some kids love it and some kids hate it)

– take a bubble bath with cups and toys

– let your child walk in the water the next time you find a creek bed

– let your child pop bubble wrap with their hands or feet

–  give them a massage (Baby Oh Baby has a great video for how to do this)

– feel the bark on the trees and the texture of the leaves

My favorite part of children getting sensory input is the look on their face.  For sensory-seekers these activities are pure joy. Let me know what ideas you would add to this list in the comments section.

Praise for Doing and Praise for Being

by Jessica Kilpatrick, MA, LPC, Program Support Specialist

Over the last month I have been teaching a parenting class called Nurturing Parenting.  One of my favorite lessons from this class is the idea of praise for doing versus praise for being. Let’s start with praise in general . I think we can all agree that we should praise our kids, right?  If we want them to behave well we need to let them know what they are doing right to increase the odds they will repeat it. We also want them to know that we love them and that they are pretty darn special. Now, let’s take a closer look at praise for doing and praise for being.

Praise for Doing

Great job cleaning your room.

I love it when I hear you being so kind to your sister.

Thank you for picking up your toys.

You were amazing at your soccer game today!

Praise for Being

I love you.

You are a great kid.

I love being your Dad.

You have a good kind heart.

You can see how both are incredibly important. What I learned from Nurturing Parenting is that we should do both, but we should avoid pairing the two together. For instance, “You did such a great job cleaning your room.  I love you so much.” We want our kids to feel beautiful, strong, and responsible because that us who they are, that is who God created them to be. We don’t want them to feel like just because they did the right thing we love them and we appreciate them.  The underlying message when we pair the two is that our love in conditional.

If you’re anything like my co-worker that I was speaking with today you’re thinking, “Oh great, another way I’ve screwed up my kids!”  We can’t go back in time and no your kids aren’t ruined, but we can be more aware of what messages we are sending and what messages we want to send in the future.

My challenge to you this week is to increase your praise for being with your spouse, your best friend, you parent, you co-worker, and your kids. Make sure not to use praise for doing just, yet. Focus on praise for being until you have that one to a point where it comes naturally.  Warning: It’s harder than it seems. Next step is to add praise for doing back into your vocabulary.  Separately, of course 🙂


Join Us Next Week for TBRI for Infants and Toddlers

Trust-Based Relational Intervention® for Babies and Toddlers

 adopted baby

Thursday, August 13th 6:00pm-8:00pm

In this class we will discuss:

  • Attachment
  • Infant Massage
  • Handling Tantrums and Meltdowns
  • No Drama Discipline
  • Encouraging Language Development
  • Building Self-Esteem
  • Therapeutic Play
  • Teaching Empathy
  • Balancing Structure and Nurture


Location: Children at Heart Ministries – 1301 North Mays, Round Rock, TX 78664

Registration:  Email

Jessica Kilpatrick, MA, LPC is a TBRI Educator® and has 18 years of experience working professionally with infants and young children.  Jessica has a true passion for this age group and is looking forward to sharing her experience and knowledge with you!