Does your child often criticize themselves? Do they jump to say negative things about themselves after making small mistakes? It’s incredibly upsetting for any parent to hear their child say “I’m stupid. I’m lazy. I can’t do anything right.” Even when you rush to convince your child that these self-critical statements are false, your words may not be heard.

Self-Compassion is a powerful tool for countering the self-criticism and perfectionism that may be at an all-time high in your household. In its essence, self-compassion is treating ourselves the way we would a close friend or loved one. Research shows that self-compassion builds resilience when facing the effects of ADHD and improves problem-solving and persistence. Self-compassion also improves how we feel and how we treat others.

Imagine that you forgot to send an important email to your boss or teacher and sent it later than expected. What thoughts immediately pop up? For adults and children with ADHD, self-critical thoughts such as “I’m so dumb” or “I always forget things” are likely to arise. We are often our own worst critics.

Now imagine if a friend told you they forgot to send an email to their boss or teacher. How would you respond? “That happens sometimes! I’ve definitely been there. You are so busy and taking care of so much right now. You are great at your job/school and I know your boss/teacher will understand.”  Feels good, right?  With practice, we can work towards giving ourselves the same level of compassion we give others.

Next time you child engages in critical self-talk, ask them what they might say to a friend in the same situation.

Many believe that critical attitudes and perfectionism keep them motivated; however, research indicates that striving for perfection wears down motivation.  In reality, recognizing we are human and that we make mistakes allows us to keep moving forward towards our goals.

And guess what?  The most effective way for children to learn self-compassion is by practicing it ourselves and by engaging in self-compassion exercises with our children.

You can have a self-compassion break anyplace any time by: 1) observing what is going on right now (mindfulness), 2) connecting with others (common humanity), and 3) actively showing kindness to yourself. Try out the script below on your own and with your child. Kristin Neff, PhD is the pioneer in the field of self-compassion research. To learn more about self-compassion visit her website at https://self-compassion.org/ and watch her Ted Talk HERE. 

Self-Compassion Break, Script adapted from Kristin Neff

Take a moment to think of a situation in your life that is difficult.  Notice any sensations, images, thoughts, and feelings that come up.

Now, say to yourself:

  1. This is a moment of suffering. Other options include:
  • This hurt.
  • This is hard.
  1. Suffering is a part of life. Other options include:
  • Other people feel this way.
    • I’m not alone.
    • We all struggle in our lives.

Now, put your hands over your heart, feel the warmth of your hands and the gentle touch of your hands on your chest. Or use whatever soothing touch feels right for you.

Say to yourself:

  1. May I be kind to myself

You can also ask yourself, “What do I need to hear right now to express kindness to myself?” Is there a phrase that speaks to you in your particular situation, such as:

  • May I give myself the compassion that I need.
  • May I forgive myself.
  • May I accept myself as I am.
  • May I be strong.
  • May I be patient.