I came across a NY Times article recently on self-compassion, and how people who are more compassionate with themselves have less depression, anxiety, and tend to be more resilient, optimistic, and happier. So it got me thinking about how we encourage self-esteem in children, yet we don’t spend as much time and energy on cultivating self-compassion.
What does it mean to be self-compassionate and how can we teach children how to become more compassionate?
Adams and Leary (2007) define self-compassion as the ability to react with self-kindness and understanding when encountering difficult situations. In addition, self-compassion involves mindfulness of nonjudgmental awareness, and acceptance of one’s common humanity and understanding that they are part of a larger experience, and that others too share the common experience of difficult situations and emotions. Those who exhibit higher traits of self- compassion are less extreme in their reactions and fixate less on problems than those who exhibit lower self-compassion.
Although self-esteem (feeling good about one’s self and maintaining a positive self view) is related to self-compassion, it has been noted in research that when experiencing negative events a self-compassionate mindset may be more beneficial than high self-esteem.
As a child there are days when you get picked on, forget your homework, get totally embarrassed by a friend or a teacher. Encouraging self-compassion in children reduces negative emotions and increases personal responsibility for an undesired situation, whereby a child realizes their mistakes, without being overwhelmed by negative emotions. In doing so they are less likely to melt down or shut down or avoid feelings or circumstances in the future, and are likely to increase their ability to self-regulate their emotions and behaviors.
So how can you help your child increase their self-compassion?