Self-compassion is an important part of parenting children and adolescents. A few years ago, the Washington Post published an article called “Teaching Children Self-Compassion by Modeling it Ourselves” by Mandy Lange. The article addresses the idea that children learn how to respond to their difficulties, stressors, and mistakes through their own experiences, and through what they see their parents doing. The article, which you can find here, offers thoughtful ideas and advice, including accepting feelings, labeling them in front of children, apologizing, and practicing mindfulness. This practice may be even more important for parents of children who struggle with regulating their own thoughts and feelings, including children with AD/HD, anxiety, and autism.
Here are five tips to help parents make sure to take care of themselves, especially as they work so hard to take care of their children:
Schedule little things in the day that are just for you
Recognize that you do so much in the course of a day and ask so much of your body in taking you where you need to be. It is hard, but so important to make sure that there is something each day that devotes time to taking care of yourself, body and mind.
Try practicing mindful self-compassion and self-care on your own
Dr. Kristin Neff, who is the parent of a child with autism, has a website with activities and meditations that you can follow to start your own practice of mindful self-compassion, which you can find here.
Try practicing mindful self-compassion with your child
Ask your child what they like about themselves, or something that they are proud of each day. Praise them and share your own.
Let your child see you make mistakes
Even more importantly, let your child see you respond to your mistakes with patience and compassion. Let them see you work to correct it and try again. This may give your child the chance to see that a mistake (and the unpleasant feelings that come with it) doesn’t have to end with giving up or being cruel.
Maintain community with other parents
Sometimes, we can feel shame if we are frustrated, worn out, or unsure of ourselves. It is so important to find people who you can relate to and share with, remembering that self-compassion, and Dr. Neff, would say that the suffering and difficulty of life is what unites us. Find others who can share compassion, and for whom you can have compassion. For more information, see the Washington Post Article, as well as Dr. Kristin Neff’s website, both of which are linked in the above article.
Drs. Burke and Anderson attended a training with Dr. Neff and Dr. Christopher Germer in self-compassion at the Greater Good Institute in 2017. We will continue to supply ongoing posts which suggest ways to apply self-compassion in your life.