Having compassion for others tends to be easier than having compassion for ourselves. Why do you think that is? Is it because it’s easier to see others as humans that will make mistakes and hopefully learn from it than to see ourselves that way? We hold ourselves to a higher, sometimes unattainable, standard of perfection and wonder why we can feel so empty and isolated. What are we showing our children about self-care and compassion for themselves? Here are some steps to help make teaching compassion for yourself a household habit!
Practice what you preach
It’s easy for us to tell our children that their problems won’t last or that they aren’t a big deal. But to them, they are, just like ours are big to us. Show them the respect you would like to be given to you when you're upset about something. Understand that they don’t yet have the life experience or foresight to know that emotions and situations are transient and won’t last forever. Show them by modeling how to work through problems and situations where you might have been in the wrong. If you know you were short with your child or said something that you wish you could take back make sure to apologize to them. This shows them how to take accountability of their actions and talk it out with the other person.
I am not alone
It’s so easy for children and teens to feel like what they are going through has literally never happened to anyone else and will never happen to anyone ever. Like in the history of all humans. Helping them see that what they are going through isn’t unique and others have gone through the same is the first step in helping them learn that life isn’t an all or nothing deal. You didn’t get into the club at school you wanted? Didn’t get the grade or date you wanted? We all have stories swirling around about various times in our lives that we thought we had a handle on something and it just didn’t work out. Use it as a learning experience, maybe you weren’t supposed to get that “thing” you were working towards because something else was coming your way. Maybe you weren’t ready for that big promotion so the universe gave you a little more time to get ready for the big changes that would take place once you did get it. There are reasons for everything, we only have to look at the big picture and see what we can do right now to help us lick our wounds and move on just a little wiser.
What are the feelings I’m having?
Part of mindfulness is looking inward and seeing what we are feeling in our bodies. Teaching children and teens to label their emotions is a great way to help foster this skill. Sometimes we don’t know exactly how we are feeling, we just know we are feeling bad or sad so explain that sometimes we’re a tangle of emotions. Giving them a safe space to explore these emotions and describing them will make it easier every time their bodies has those emotions again. Ask your child where in their bodies they are feeling the emotions and what it physically feels like. This is where we can bring in mediations about loving compassion and self-care. Ask them to close their eyes and imagine they are holding the emotion in their hands and sending it great amounts of love. What does it feel like now? Could you use some breathing techniques to blow the emotion out of their chest and inhale calmer emotions?
What would I tell a friend?
Sometimes we don’t realize what a bully we are until we hear how we talk to ourselves. The things we say to ourselves we would never say to a friend who is going through the same thing, so start apologizing to yourself. If your child is beating themselves up for something that won’t matter in 5 hours from now ask them what would they tell a friend in the same situation? How would you help them through it? What could you say to them? How about writing those things down and taping them up around the house as a reminder that we are all perfectly imperfect human beings and we are all just doing the best with the skills we have at this moment.
Play the tape through
Ok, this is a little something I learned in recovery that has helped me so many times and it sort of piggybacks off the last one. “Play the tape through” means to play the situation out in your mind all the way to the end. Sometimes we fixate on the mistake we made we don’t allow ourselves to see that if we take accountability for the situation we can turn it around. Children and teens have a hard time seeing the forest through the trees sometimes and things are very permanent in their minds. Sometimes they need help as well to see that the situation isn’t always black and white, there are various shades of gray.
I would love to hear how your family practices compassion for yourselves and one another! Connect with me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn!