Sparking Self-Compassion in Children


When it comes to self-compassion, we can practice acting the same way towards ourselves when we are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself as you would towards a friend.

Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?
— Kristin Neff

A few ways to plant seeds of self-compassion or children and adolescents:

Normalize imperfections

Find opportunities to normalize imperfections. It’s part of being human to be flawed. When we support children in unpacking this notion, we relieve any pressures for them to be perfect. By embracing the idea that part of being human means being imperfect, we are opening the door for children to feel less alone and more connected to everyone around them who shares that very experience. 

Emphasize the importance of acts of kindness towards ourselves

Expand the narrative around being kind to others by also emphasizing the importance of being kind to yourself. Kindness that is radiated inward strengthens our ability to radiate kindness outward. With this, it’s important to acknowledge that being kind to ourselves is not always easy. Our inner negative dialogue is likely to be critical and judgmental, thus inviting the need for intentionality. We can do this by supporting children in developing concrete tools to practice self-compassion. Try creating a kindness confetti jar or encourage journaling focused on exercising self-compassion when judgement arises. 

Use mindful awareness

The crux of any mindfulness practice is non-judgement and acceptance of our experience, thus functioning as a primary tool towards navigating the world with self-compassion. Mindful awareness invites curiosity and gentleness. With mindfulness, we help children learn that our feelings and experiences are transitory, and that all of our experiences are worthy of acceptance, nurturing and love.