Being a parent can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life, but at times it can be incredibly challenging. This is true, in part, because being a parent is a time of constant change and learning, and because our children are just so important to us.
It’s important to remember that it’s ok to recognise the challenge and real discomfort that is part of the job, and that you deserve compassion. Self-compassion is the practice of noticing your own suffering, and offering yourself kindness. Often, kindness is something we readily offer to others (including our children) but not always to ourselves.
Self-compassion can help you manage stress, improve relationships and wellbeing. In this blog post we’ll explore the importance of self-compassion for parents, including some tips for practicing self-compassion in your everyday life. Practice is the key word here.
Why practicing self-compassion can be useful for parents:
Because you deserve it.
Parenting can leave you feeling stressed. It’s common to experience feelings of guilt and self-doubt, and left unacknowledged, this can take a toll on your wellbeing. When you ignore the self-compassion you deserve, you are more likely to be critical of yourself, feel more overwhelmed and may find you have less ‘bandwidth’ for others. On the other hand, by practicing self-compassion, you may find you are better able to manage stress and improve your interactions with others, including those moments of high stress, energy and emotion.
Self-compassion can also be a useful way to model healthy behaviors to our children. When your children see you treating yourself with kindness, they can learn to do the same for themselves, providing them with coping and resilience skills for life.
Tips for practicing self-compassion as a parent:
1. Notice and acknowledge your feelings.
When we are so busy and under pressure, it can be easy to ignore the discomfort underneath. If you’re feeling overwhelmed you may take a moment to pause, notice and sit with the feeling. Let it be and let it go. Some people find it useful to send an intentional thought inward, with kindness, to acknowledge the moment, such as simply saying “ouch… this hurts”. With practice, naming the moment, with honesty, kindness and acceptance, can help reduce stress, and improve our reactions over time.
2. Know that you are not alone.
If you are feeling exhaustion, stress, guilt or self-doubt, you are almost definitely experiencing something like the experience of most parents. Some people find it useful to send an intentional thought inward, with kindness, to acknowledge that they are not different, broken or alone, such as simply saying “It is not just me… I am not alone”. With practice, this simple, kind message, can reset our emotional, cognitive and neurobiological systems, encouraging us to self soothe, connect with others and reduce the impact of stress over time.
3. Send yourself a word of hope or an offering of peace just as you would offer kindness and hope to someone else that you care about. Some people find it useful to send a simple, intentional thought inward, with kindness, such as “may I have the peace that I need”.
Overall, practicing self-compassion as a parent can be an empowering and effective way to manage stress, improve relationships and increase overall well-being. By acknowledging your needs and feelings with these three steps, and by treating yourself as you would treat a friend (or your child!), it is possible to build a strong foundation of self-compassion that will help you navigate the challenges of parenting, whilst acknowledging your own needs as well.
Many of these tips are based on Mindfulness Based Self Compassion. For more information you may like to check the official website here: https://centerformsc.org/