Teaching our kids self-compassion

Dr Karla Hylton

Sunday, October 28, 2018

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Self-compassion means extending compassion to one's own self in times of failure, anxiety and or suffering. It is you being kind and understanding to yourself despite personal failings. The act of compassion towards oneself is critical for people of all ages. When we are self-compassionate, it means that we give ourselves the same kindness, encouragement and care that we would give a close friend. Self-compassion is linked to greater well-being, improved emotional coping skills as well as compassion for others.

Do not confuse self-compassion with self-pity. They are not the same. Self-pity is when we feel sorry for ourselves and wallow in the shame of what has happened. The act of self-compassion accepts the mistake with grace but understands that one's value and worth do not diminish because of the mistake.

Many parents teach their kids to be kind and gentle with others but we often neglect to instil the value of these traits towards oneself. I know countless kids who criticise themselves over their looks, athletic ability, academic performance and popularity. This leads to feelings of worthlessness, inadequacies and low self-esteem. On the other hand, kids that are self-compassionate are happier, resilient and have good self-esteem. These kids will more likely grow up to be healthy, balanced adults who are not dependent on others to validate their self-worth.

In a culture built on competitiveness and comparison, self-compassion builds an intrinsic sense of self-worth and establishes one's own support system in times of distress.

How to Foster Self-compassion in Kids

Self-compassion involves a change in attitude and is linked with happiness, emotional stability as well as superior performance outcomes. It is therefore beneficial for parents and caregivers to nurture their kids to be self-compassionate. It is a skill that comes naturally to some persons but can be learnt. Here are some tips:

1) Explain Life — Kids need to have an accurate understanding that life is and always will be made of ups and downs. While we celebrate the good times, we must also accept the bad times. Kindness begins when we understand that all humans struggle at some time or the other and one must acknowledge the presence of pain and suffering.

2) Cultivate gratitude — It is easy to focus on the negatives. Teach your child to count their blessings. This means focusing on what is going right in life. Make gratitude a part of daily conversation. Perhaps you could have a daily routine where kids tell you three things they are grateful for each day. You, as the parent, should also do the same. Lead by example.

3) Acknowledge failure and trials — It is important to recognise failure. When a child learns to own both failures and successes as part of life, resilience is developed. Give your child permission to be imperfect.

4) Model self-compassion — As adults we also have ups and downs and failures as well as successes. Share your bad days in an appropriate way and then add a strong dose of being good to yourself. Let your child see that you are being caring towards your own self, even in times of distress or failure and your child will mimic your behaviour.

One Dozen Benefits of Self- Compassion

1. It increases motivation

2. It decreases mental health problems such as anxiety, depression and stress

3. It enhances self-worth

4. It improves body image

5. It boosts happiness

6. It fosters resilience

7. It promotes empathy for others

8. It increases emotional intelligence

9. It promotes optimism

10. It builds self-confidence

11. It reduces stress hormones

12. It enhances patience and humility

Life is, and will always be filled with unexpected twists and turns beyond our control. What we can control is how we respond to these challenges. Learning to be self-compassionate and kind to ourselves will bring many benefits to both our kids and ourselves alike. Begin today to practise self-compassion and help your child develop these skills.

Dr Karla Hylton is the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools. She operates Bio & Chem Tutoring, which specialises in secondary level biology and chemistry. Reach her at (876) 564-1347, biochemtutor100@gmail.com or khylton.com.

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