We may be familiar with the idea of being compassionate towards others but often we find this harder to apply to ourselves. Yet self-compassion is key to helping parent carers who may feel overwhelmed by their caring role and the systems around them.
Dr Kristin Neff is a researcher in the field of self-compassion, who is also a mother of an autistic son. She writes:
‘In a study on self-compassion in parents of autistic children the researchers found that those parents with more self-compassion perceived less stress when dealing with their children. They were less likely to be depressed, and more likely to be hopeful and satisfied with their lives.
In fact self-compassion was actually a stronger predictor of how they were doing than the severity of their children’s autism. This suggests that what’s more important than the intensity of the challenges you face in life is how you relate to yourself in the midst of it.’
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I think all parent carers (and parents in general) can learn from these findings.
We may beat ourselves up for a perceived ‘failure’ or when we don’t have all the answers in relation to our child. But self-compassion is where we treat ourselves with self-kindness instead of self-criticism. It’s the opposite of shame.
Self-compassion means we accept that human beings are fallible and there is no such thing as a ‘perfect parent’. It’s ok to be ‘good enough’.
If you struggle to be kind to yourself, try these statements to develop your self-compassion:
- We’re only human and everyone makes mistakes
- This is really hard. What do you need in this moment?
- Of course this is difficult. Anyone would find this hard.
- May I let go of that which no longer serves me
If something doesn’t go to plan, don’t generalise it to all other areas in your life. If you make a mistake replace any thoughts of ‘there you did it again, you always mess things up’ with ‘that didn’t go how I wanted but I’m now clear how to avoid that outcome in the future.’
Replacing self-criticism with self-compassion is a key ingredient in supporting your own emotional wellbeing.
You can find more parent carer wellbeing tips at www.affinityhub.uk.