ParentTip: Close the Compassion Gap

What is the compassion gap you ask? Well, it describes the difference in the support we give ourselves versus the support we give others. Ever noticed how easy it is to reassure a friend or loved one when they’re facing a challenge? You may help them consider outside factors, remind them of their positive qualities and encourage them to keep trying. But then when you’re faced with the same challenge, you tell yourself you’re a failure, that it’s all your fault, and that you’ll never get another opportunity to succeed. Why is it we can show such empathy to others but be so cruel to ourselves?

Why don’t we all do ourselves a favor and close the compassion gap?!? You can start by reminding yourself to be your own best friend. Treat yourself like you would a dear friend or family member when you fall short. Don’t attribute failure solely to your personal qualities and shortcomings. And the great news is you can teach your children self-compassion too! GoZen has a great guide to helping your children close the compassion gap:

Be Your Own Best Friend

  1. Ask your child to tell you about a recent challenge they went through or are currently experiencing. Let’s say, for example, they say they’re really worried about a science test coming up–they think they might fail.
  2. Now, grab a stuffed animal to represent your child’s best friend. Tell your child their best friend is going through the exact same issue. For example, you might say, “Let’s pretend this toy is Julie, your best friend. Julie’s really worried because she thinks she’s going to do poorly on the next science test. Can you talk to her to make her feel better?”
  3. Next, explain to your child that the way they talk to Julie is the same way they need to talk to themselves when they face a challenge. Let them know a great way to do this is by standing in front of a mirror and have a conversation with themselves out loud.
  4. Have your child stand in front of a mirror and start giving themselves advice. Depending on your child’s age, guide them along and give them suggestions.

And remember parents, the best way to teach self-compassion to your children is to lead by example. You can’t expect them to love themselves if they see you constantly being hard on yourself. Thankfully, self-compassion can be learned at any age!