How to help teens increase their self-kindness

Becky Goddard-Hill is a children’s psychotherapist and wellbeing author.  Her new activity book for kids aged 6-12 is called Create Your Own Kindness and it teaches kids to be kinder to themselves other people and to the planet.

Self-Kindness is of course crucial no matter what age you are and here Becky looks at why, for teens, this matters now more than ever.

The impact of recent times on emotional health

This pandemic has been hard on all of us, money worries, illness, juggling responsibilities, feeling anxious about the future and uncertain about when things might change.

Place2Be the charity who provide school based mental health services have reported alarming statistics regarding emotional wellbeing in secondary school kids – noting a staggering 109 per cent rise in reported incidents of self-harm during the 2020 autumn term.

We do now have light at the end of the tunnel, but jangled nerves remain and for many children and teens the return to ‘normal life’ brings new anxieties.  For lots of kids, a return to ‘normal life’ includes a return to school or college and after many months of not seeing their friends regularly this regrouping can be angst ridden. Teens, already self-conscious, might well feel like the ‘new kid’ again and doubt their relationships’.

There is also the case of fragmented learning and this idea of needing to catch up which will put pressure on teachers and students alike at a time when less rather than more stress is required.

Felling s of anxiety and pressure can invariably lead to teens feeling overwhelmed and anxious and this could really be a very tricky time for them. We do not want those reported self-harm rates to increase. What we need to stress to our teens is when things hard it is self-love and self-kindness that need to absolutely be ramped up not self-harm.

Learning to treat themselves with kindness is something all children will thrive on. Learning to speak to themselves with kindness, forgive themselves, treat their minds and bodies gently and lovingly and fill themselves up with kind thoughts will absolutely help them be more resourceful and resilient,

How do we teach self-kindness to our teens?

So, as always, we need to show our kids the way we want them to go rather than simply tell them what to do.

Role modelling good self-care is key and making it overt is important.  So, for example, you could say ‘I am going to have a long bath now my body feels so tense from worrying earlier and it will really help me relax.’ Or perhaps you might say ‘I’m going to schedule in a phone call with grandma tonight she always listens to me and it feel fabulous to get my worries out.’

You could even give your kids tools to help them increase their self-kindness, maybe some affirmations cards to help them talk positively to themselves, maybe a yoga mat and an online subscription to classes, perhaps you could invest in a lavender spray and a cosy throw and put them together an emergency self-kindness first aid kit for your teen?

And then there are little exercises you could encourage your child to do so they give self -kindness some direct focus. Perhaps you could even do these together?

Here is an exercise from Create Your Own Kindness to help self-kindness became a habit that you could share with your child.

Filling the kindness cup

You will need:

  • A cup
  • Lots of small pieces of either pasta, buttons, pompoms or pebbles which you place in a dish next to your cup

 Over the next week every time you are kind to yourself, from giving yourself a hug, speaking kindly to yourself, having a cuddle with your cat, or making yourself your favourite snack, I want you to take one thing from your dish and put it into your cup.

Your aim by the end of the week is for your cup to be FULL. This will represent all the kindness you have shown to yourself.

My belief is that if you have filled your cup even part way up with kindness towards yourself you have probably found it much easier to be kind to other people this week too.

Self- kindness matters

We need to go all out to encourage self-kindness in our kids. They need to absolutely know to treat themselves with all the care and attention they would a friend who struggling and this needs to become their default response to hard times.

 “Self-compassion is simply giving the same kindness to ourselves that we would give to others.” Christopher Germer

You can find Becky blogging at emotionally healthy kids

She also co-authored a happiness boosting book for teens in 2020 called Be Happy Be You

And you can find her podcast Emotionally Healthy Kids here

Author: Courtenay

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