You may be wondering if your child has enough compassion for others and self-compassion for themself. It’s hot outside, the sun is high and the swimming pools are busy, which makes it hard to believe that the start of the school year is just around the corner. But that first day of school is coming up in just a few weeks, and will bring with it all the excitement and anticipation about seeing friends, meeting new teachers, and doing fun activities. But school also comes with lots of expectations and challenges – arguments with friends, feeling left out, tough new schoolwork, and grades. And that can leave some children feeling anxious or self-critical, worried that they’re being judged or that they’re not good enough in some way.
Your child needs a dose of self-compassion in order to navigate challenges.
To prepare for school, kids and families buy and gather all kinds of supplies. Your kids will need notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, and backpacks and lunchboxes, of course. But what supplies will they need to support their social-emotional health as they head back to school? How do we help our kids navigate the challenges they will face while still being kind to themselves and others? Perhaps with a dose of self-compassion.
What is self-compassion, you might ask? Self-compassion is the idea that when we struggle, we can be kind and understanding to ourselves in the same way we might be to a dear friend or family member. It doesn’t mean ignoring the plights of others, letting ourselves off the hook for mistakes, or thinking we’re better than everyone else. But it does mean that when we make a mistake or have something difficult happen to us, we can be kind to ourselves, remember that we are not alone, and try not to get stuck in whatever the bad thing was that happened. We can forgive ourselves and then move on and keep trying.
So how do we help our children take this attitude with them to school? Well, caregiver, the first step is practicing and modeling self-compassion yourself. When something doesn’t go the way you had hoped or when you make a mistake, name your feelings out loud and try saying something kind to yourself, remembering that these things happen to everyone and that you can try again. Your kids will watch how you treat yourself to see how they should treat themselves.
If you hear your kids making self-critical comments, you can support them with their own self-compassion.
- Help them name their feelings.
- Ask them what they would say to a close friend who was in this situation.
- Support them to say that same kind thing to themselves.
- Help them find something they can do to feel nurtured (give themselves a hug, cuddle a stuffed animal or pet, get a hug from you).
- Remind them that they are not alone and everyone has similar things happen to them.
You and your kids can even use self-compassion to be kind to yourselves when you have trouble being kind to yourselves! Just remind yourselves that everyone has struggles sometimes and you can try again.
If you’re interested in more information about self-compassion, check out Kristin Neff’s website here. And for older kids and teens, they might enjoy this self-compassion break that they can practice with you and then throughout their school day if they need it.
If your child is struggling with self-critical thoughts or the transition to school and it is interfering with their ability to enjoy themselves or feel good about themselves, we are here to help. Feel free to reach out to schedule a free consultation.