Introducing Mindful Self-Compassion to Kids
A good way to start introducing self-compassion or loving kindness to children is by having a lesson or two exploring kindness and gratitude. Both these qualities have been shown to have a beneficial effect on both the giver and the receiver.
We can cultivate both kindness and gratitude in what we say and do in our daily lives. Being kind to others releases a feel good hormone in our brains called dopamine. This enters our bloodstream and activates a part of the brain that makes you happy. Research has shown that doing good deeds for others also increases our own sense of happiness and wellbeing. This has been particularly important in recent times, when many people have been struggling. By encouraging children to widen their circle of concern beyond their family to their friends, schoolmates and neighbours, everyone can benefit. We can create a kinder and more enjoyable community to live in.
Simple Everyday Acts of Kindness
- Paying someone a compliment.
- Helping other people.
- Understanding when other people are sad and being nice to them.
- Not judging people.
- Listening to someone without interrupting.
- Being friendly, generous and considerate of others.
- Doing something nice without expecting anything in return.
- Write someone a note letting them know how much you appreciate them.
- Sitting next to someone who is always on their own at lunchtime.
- Asking someone to play with you in the playground.
Appreciate and acknowledge when children do something kind for someone else and bring a culture of kindness into your home or school. Explore the science of kindness so that children are aware that kindness benefits everyone. This goes hand in hand with creating a culture of gratitude in your home or school. The word gratitude comes from the Latin word gracia which can mean graciousness or gratefulness. In positive psychology research, gratitude has been shown to be one of the key factors in developing a positive mindset.
Create a Culture of Gratitude
- Have a gratitude jar in your classroom or at home. Keep pen and paper nearby so that children can write down what they are grateful for.
- Encourage children to keep a daily gratitude diary and write down either three things they are grateful for that day or three sentences about one thing they have been grateful for. The three sentences on one thing has been shown to be more impactful for teens and adults in particular.
- At meal times ask each family member to say something new they have learned that day, someone they helped and someone who helped them.
- As above, write a thank you note to someone who has been kind to you saying how much you appreciated it.
- Have a walk in nature and see how many beautiful things you can see around you.
- Do a creative activity such as painting gratitude stones. You can paint them with patterns and words for things you are grateful for.
Introducing Compassion & Self Compassion
When children are familiar and comfortable with kindness and gratitude, you can start to introduce compassion and self compassion practice. At Calm for Kids we sometimes refer to this as “good vibes”, but you can also call it friendly wishes, kind thoughts or well wishes.
You can start by instructing children children Then to all the children in the class and extend it to all the children in the school, the country and the world. . This helps develop a sense of connectedness.
To introduce self-compassion phrases, you can start by saying the phrases and then children say them back to you. You can create a good vibes board where children can write down the phrases and anyone they want to send them to. Start using the classic buddhist “may I be ” and suggest words such as happy, strong, kind, calm.
Encourage children to come up with words that are in the spirit of metta and intended to encourage a sense of kindness and friendliness.
Before introducing “compassion or loving kindness phrases” you can do an exercise where each child has to focus on a family member, friend or even a pet who they love or like a lot. They could draw a picture of this person or pet and write down all the things they like about them and how they feel when they are with them. You can then ask them to imagine that person is sitting in front of them and they are going to send them good vibes. When you want to introduce a good vibes meditation practice using phrases you can ask children to bring both hands to their heart and offer some simple phrases to their special person or animal such as. You can use the phrases below and encourage children to use their own.
May you be well. May you be happy. May you be calm. .
You can then ask them to say the phrases to themselves.
May I be well. May I be happy, May I be calm.
It is important to explain to children that whilst we are saying these phrases, it doesn’t mean they are going to happen, but it can help us to develop the qualities of mind contained in the phrases.