April 1, 2020
By Simcha Samuel, PhD, Psychologist
Writing this blogpost, I’m sitting beside my toddler who is watching his third episode of a Netflix show about two bunnies, and it’s easy to get sucked into a self-critical thought spiral. It sounds something like this: Other parents are planning scavenger hunts for their kids around the house or taking their kids for walks right now, and look what you’re doing – you’re not engaging him the way he deserves.
Social distancing during the covid-19 pandemic can leave us with a lot of time in our heads. Add to that the pressures of entertaining a kid without access to their friends, schools or usual activities, and it’s easy for self-criticism to creep in, potentially leaving us even more depleted and distressed. This is why it’s especially important to practice being compassionate with ourselves during this time.
To start with, let’s address a common misconception: Self-compassion doesn’t mean letting ourselves off the hook. We can think of it like being a good parent to ourselves, holding ourselves accountable without going to either extreme of being permissive (‘it’s ok to let him watch 8 hours of TV per day and eat chocolate for all 3 meals’) or overly harsh (‘you’re a bad mom if you’re not actively engaging him the whole day and preparing Instagram-worthy scavenger hunts and organic meals’).
Here are some steps (1) that you can use to practice self-compassion as a parent during the covid-19 pandemic:
So, like a good parent, these steps represent a nice balance of validation and problem solving, without being overly permissive or harsh. We are all going to slip into self-critical talk at times in the coming weeks or months; the challenge is to catch yourself doing it and see if you can practice compassionate self-talk some of the time; that, in and of itself, is an important thing that we can model for our children. And most gratifying of all is when we can see it mirrored back to us (like when I overhear my son saying to himself, with a shrug and a smile, ‘it’s okay – it was an accident!’).
Happy practicing and take good care everyone!!
1. Neff, K. & Germer, C. (2018). The mindful self-compassion workbook: A proven way to accept yourself, build inner strength, and thrive. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
2.Harris, R. (2015). How to develop self-compassion in just about anyone. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1__Q3UcT9Q8VuSbiRm7x7-xjaxy5xkrba/view?usp=sharing
3.Harris, R. (2020). FACE COVID. https://e-tmf.org/app/uploads/2020/03/FACE-COVID-How-to-respond-effectively-to-the-Corona-crisis-by-Russ-Harris.pdf