Parenting with self-compassion begins with the caregiver being compassionate with oneself first.
Remember the last time you were on an airplane receiving pre-flight instructions? The flight attendant always says to secure your oxygen mask before helping those around you. Because if you can’t breathe, you can’t help.
Dr. Kristin Neff states that self-compassion work – the “oxygen mask” – has three elements: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. When we put on our “oxygen mask” in our daily lives, we can then help our loved ones around us.
When we can model these three elements of self-compassion, we become the role models our children need to support them as they grow.
To reflect on these three elements, it helps to consider the opposite of each:
- Self-kindness rather than self-judgment–Being gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental.
- Common humanity, rather than isolation. We must recognize our very normal human need to connect with others. Staying on an island isolated and alienated by our inadequacies or imperfections, we cannot be the self-compassionate version of ourselves. During the pandemic shutdown, common humanity and the desire for human connection made headlines worldwide; however, now that we are emerging, we find ourselves in a social media-fueled society. Social media brings feelings of inadequacy by only sharing what Instagram or FaceBook-worthy is. We must recognize that only the highlight reel is posted, not the messier parts of real life.
- Mindfulness rather than overidentification. Ignoring pain is a similar process to self-isolation. Life is hard, and at times, we try to ignore this, which often results in the ignored pain resurfacing in other parts of our lives. It is imperative, then, to be mindful of where you are currently and how you are feeling at this moment. Because what we resist will persist.
Dr. Neff states, “Mindfulness is a non-judgmental, receptive mind state in which one observes thoughts and feeling as they are, without trying to suppress or deny them.” There is something to be said for “feeling all the feels” –the good, the hard, and the ugly. Children will express feelings without a second thought and “feel all the feels,” but as adults, sometimes we don’t. It is important to experience our feelings as life brings them to us. As parents, we should model the healthy processing of feelings for our children by expressing our uncomfortable feelings in words with non-judgemental awareness. When we can feel, then we can heal.
As parents and caregivers, all we want to do is help our kids heal from the hurts and heartaches of this world. When we teach our children self-compassion by modeling it ourselves, we begin to give them the real-life superpower of healing internal wounds through self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness.
To learn more about Self-Compassion-check out: https://self-compassion.org/
Written by Christina Shaw, Ed.D, LPC-A