Volume XX | Issue 2 | Spring 2020
Conversations shape how we parent our children.

Talking with children

Parents can use conversations with their kids to help them become caring people

Oregon author Shauna Tominey has lived in a lot of states and worked as a researcher and teacher with many kinds of families. “I have found that as I’ve worked with families in different settings, there are commonalities in the ways they talk with their children,” she says. “And I have noticed a lot of differences.”

As a member of a military family, she participated in frank, everyday discussions about war and family separation. At early childhood centers in urban areas, she listened to conversations about extreme racism. 

“I started thinking about how hearing those conversations shaped how we parent our kids. What if other families had a lens into these conversations, too?”

Creating Compassionate Kids

The result of that question is Creating Compassionate Kids: Essential Conversations to Have with Young Children. 

Selected as a “Favorite Book for Parents in 2019” by Greater Good magazine, the book provides parents with a framework for using conversations that help their children become caring people.

Tominey, assistant professor of practice and parenting education specialist at Oregon State University, draws on her extensive experience to provide the example-rich content of the book. Tominey is also the state coordinator for the Oregon Parenting Education Collaborative, an initiative to provide high-quality parenting education supported by The Ford Family Foundation (see page 6). 

Each chapter of the book is devoted to a characteristic — such as compassion, self-awareness, and resilience — and provides parents with age-appropriate conversations that can help shape their children’s understanding of the world. 

For example, in the fostering resilience chapter, Tominey talks about how scary it is to talk with your child about suicide or death. But she also covers how important it is to help them build the protective factors to deal with them. She then models conversations between parents and children on key topics including divorce, relationships and sex, peer pressure, bullying and abuse. Each conversation is followed by a “what’s happening” section that identifies critical components. 

“So often we shy away from conversations about difficult things because we don’t want our children to grow up too quickly,” Tominey says. “It might feel challenging, but ultimately might be the pathway to compassionate children.”


The carefully constructed chapters include a host of resources to fortify the lessons. In each chapter, a question-and-answer section follows the conversations template that address common parenting questions and challenges. Each chapter concludes with suggestions for family activities, children’s book recommendations, and discussion questions that extend the learning into everyday life. 

“Readers have told me they appreciate the concrete strategies for how to go about having conversations about our own emotions and mistakes as a parent,” Tominey says. “Seeing these conversation helps people feel like they have permission to have these conversations themselves.” 

Creating Compassionate Kids: Essential Conversations to Have with Young Children is available for free to residents of Oregon and Siskiyou County, Calif., through the Select Books program.

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