By Nicola Stigter – Psychologist
Do you ever notice your child putting themselves down with phrases like “I’m so stupid” or “I’ll never be able to do this”? It’s common for children to fall into negative thinking patterns, but as a parent, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to help. Luckily, self-compassion can be a useful tool to combat this kind of self-criticism!
Research has shown that self-compassion can have a positive impact on mental health, including reducing depression and anxiety, and increasing resilience to stress. So, what exactly is self-compassion? It involves treating ourselves with the same warmth, kindness and love that we would show to someone we care about. There are three components to self-compassion: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.
Understand Your Own Inner Critic
To help your child learn self-compassion, you can start by understanding your own inner critic.
Children learn by example, so modelling self-compassion and kindness towards yourself can teach your child that mistakes are a normal part of life and it’s okay to forgive yourself. It’s also important for your child to be aware of their self-critical thoughts and the feelings associated with them. Naming these thoughts and feelings can create space and distance from the inner critic.
Help Them Accept Their Feelings
Validation of your child’s experiences and emotions is important in promoting self-compassion. Encouraging them to process their feelings rather than immediately problem-solving can help them accept and validate their experiences. This is especially important for children who may have difficulty identifying their own emotions, such as autistic children. Using visual aids such as emotion cards and social stories can help facilitate communication.
Finally, encourage your child to be their own best friend by asking them what they would say to a friend in the same situation. Practising this and using kind words towards themselves can help cultivate a self-compassionate voice.
Remember, self-compassion is a skill that requires practice, so be patient with your child and yourself!
If you would like to chat about how you could increase your or your child’s self-compassion, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.