Thursday, October 1, 2015

Be Kind to Yourself

For the past few weeks, my thoughts have been focused on Kindness!

At the beginning of September, I kicked off the Kind Kids Club with 1st grade students at Star Academy, and last Friday we began the PACT Acts of Kindness Club with our homeschool students!

Students and Parents from the PACT Acts of Kindness Club making posters for our #Socktober Donation Drive which runs the month of October.

Kindergarten students received "Kindness Capes" made by the 1st Grade students. Kindergarten students get to wear them in class when they demonstrate kindness or caring for others!

I feel very grateful that as part of my job, I have to opportunity to share the concept of kindness with children and families. I really enjoy seeing the excitement on students' faces when they've done something kind for someone else and hearing about the happiness it brings them.

Last year, when we were learning about kindness, we talked a lot about the places where you can show kindness to others: at home, at school, and in your community. This year, I'm bringing the focus of kindness inward and talking about how you can also be kind to...

Students are always surprised to hear this! I usually get quite a few perplexed looks and furrowed brows. I know they're thinking, "How can you be kind to yourself?"

As I explain more, many of them realize they are already practicing self-kindness:
  • Choosing to eat healthy and fresh foods to nourish their bodies
  • Staying active and playing outside
  • Getting enough sleep at night 
  • Making safe choices: wearing a seatbelt in the car, wearing a helmet when biking, etc.
  • Taking care of ourselves: brushing our hair, brushing our teeth, taking a bath/shower, etc.
  • Planning time to relax and have fun
However, one aspect of self-kindness that's not so well practiced is called 

Self-compassion is extending understanding and encouragement to yourself when things don't go your way or when you've made a mistake. 

We can choose to speak kindly to ourselves instead of critically. 

        Instead of:                                                             

        "I'm so stupid!"
        "Nobody likes me."
        "I am worthless."
        "It's all my fault."
        "Bad things always happen to me!"
        "I'll never be good at that."
        "I can't believe I said that."
        We can say:

       "I'm trying my best. I won't give up!"
       "I'm going to try some new ways to make friends."
       "I have the right to feel good. I am worth it. "
       "I did my best but things still didn't work out. 
       "It's okay when things don't go my way. That's life!"
       "My hard work will pay off. It takes time to learn new things."
       "Everyone makes mistakes. I'm going to think of ways to repair that relationship."

Essentially, we should try and treat ourselves the way we would treat a close friend who was going through the same problem. This is important, because the thoughts and words we use to talk to ourselves eventually become our experience. In addition, self-compassion or kindness helps reduce anxiety, depression, insecurity and is associated with more consistent feelings of self worth.

According to Dr. Shilagh Mirgain, PhD, this kind of self-compassion helps children build a stable sense of self, not dependent on social status, awards/trophies, or good grades:

"Kindness begins when we understand that we all struggle. Teach your children to talk kindly to themselves versus being critical. This builds a stable sense of self. Self-criticism isn't helpful and only produces a variety of negative consequences, including feeling badly about oneself. Next time your children start saying something critical, point this out to them and then teach them to reframe these thoughts into something positive and forgiving."

"The way we communicate with our children establishes a blue print for how they will eventually communicate with themselves."

"Talk to them in a non-critical way. Teach them how to self soothe during difficult times. Say to a small child, 'Let's practice hugging ourselves like mom and dad do to make you feel better. You can do this for yourself when you feel bad to remember how much you are loved.' Teach older children to put their hand on their heart to self-soothe when upset. These small gestures help them value and feel good about themselves just as they are no matter what is going on." 

"Remind your children that they are not alone in experiencing this difficult thing, other kids feel the exact same way. Everyone struggles, feels inadequate, does not get approved of, or fails at something in life. It's part of our common humanity. This helps normalize what a child is going through and reduces shame and embarrassment over mistakes made and not feeling good enough."

(Dr. Shilagh Mirgain, PhD, UW Health)

So the next time you find yourself facing a challenge or realize you've made a mistake - take a moment to breathe (with the kids) and extend some kindness to yourself...and if there's any kindness left over, pass it on to the next person you see! 

"It's okay when things don't go my way!" 

"Be Kind...Pass it on!"
1st Grade Kindness Capes

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