Treating ourselves with compassion and kindness is extremely important as we go through the joys and stresses of parenthood. This applies even when you are crabby, yelled at your kids, have six piles of laundry, and forgot to send the diaper bag to preschool!
Self Compassion is a crucial practice for parent. If we continually give to others without nurturing ourselves, our emotional gas tank will be stuck on empty.By nurturing and supporting ourselves, we will have more emotional resources to give to our children. By forgiving ourselves for the inevitable mistakes we make as parents remembering we’re only human and dong the best we can, we won’t waste precious energy beating ourselves up.
Instead we can learn from our mistakes and focus on the joy and meaning found in raising our little (or big) ones.
As our children see us model a nonjudgmental attitude toward ourselves when we make mistakes, it helps them handle their mistakes more easily. The honest truth is that we cannot teach our children what we do not know. This is why learning to be compassionate with ourselves is absolutely essential. We can tell our children to be compassionate with themselves all we want, but it won’t have much effect if we
can’t accept our own imperfections.
When we don’t know how to be compassionate with ourselves, we may default to blaming, shaming, and bashing ourselves. It is common to believe that being hard on ourselves helps us toe the line. The reality is that it doesn’t, in fact it makes it worse!
Lack of self compassion is linked to depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, problems in relationships, vulnerability to the opinions of others, and difficulty recovering from painful experiences. Walking around with an inner critic who judges you for mistakes in the past and struggles in the present is quite depressing, and it produces a lot of anxiety. Imagine instead, that you have a compassionate friend on the inside who empathizes with you, helps you take care of yourself, and shows you how to be kind to yourself. Maybe this is hard to imagine right now, but it doesn’t have to be.
The reality is that being a parent in this day and age is very challenging, no matter what the age of your children – young, teens, or adults. Your children at every age are experiencing different life challenges than we did. Not only is this hard and confusing for them, it requires a volume of skills, knowledge, and resources that no parent possesses, including myself. These ever-changing demands can result in us being unrealistically hard on ourselves about our ability to parent well in every situation.
The inability to be kind to ourselves also makes it harder to forgive ourselves and let go of mistakes. We may lose hope and begin to shut emotionally. I don’t know about you, but I’ve made lots and lots of mistakes as a parent. How could I not? It’s unavoidable. We need a way to turn our inner critic into a compassionate friend.
Self-compassion helps to soothe our mistakes and regrets. It brings truth and grace to our hearts, helps us correct our mistakes, and repairs hurts with our children. It also gives us the freedom to learn what we don’t know and find solutions.
Parents who practice self-compassion might say something like the following to themselves when they make mistakes, goof up, or regret their actions:
“Being an adult has many wonderful parts but also some really hard parts. Sometimes I feel like I don’t know how to be a parent. Sometimes I’m confused about how to balance all my responsibilities at home, at work, and with friends. I have
trouble knowing what to do or say about big topics like terrorism, the economy, that changing morals in our country, drugs, and a whole lot more. I have trouble being encouraging and following through on discipline.
“I’m starting to realize that most adults feel like this way. It helps to know I’m normal. I think I’ll be kind to myself about what I’m going through rather that beat myself up about where I am struggling.
“I know I can find help from other parents and not have to figure all this out on my It feels good to know that, even if I’m not sure how, I can learn to be my own compassionate best friend.”
Parenting is an indescribable blessing, and it also takes a lot out of us. We make lots of mistakes, and we also do lots of things right. You heard me! You are doing so much right already. We can all learn new ways to parent and fine-tune what is going well. Be kind to yourself along the way.