In these last few months, I’ve noticed with friends, clients (and myself!) that it’s easy to tend toward being hard on ourselves as parents. We’re juggling new routines at home and work. The future rhythm of our daily lives seems in constant flux. We may be navigating gracefully on some days and on others may find ourselves feeling impatient or losing our cool even if we’re doing everything we can for self-care. The cycle of self-criticism can easily slip in to derail our parenting skills and make it even harder to regain our balance. It’s at times like these that I tap into and share tools of self-compassion.
“We are carrying a lot as parents and giving ourselves the kindness and grace that we would extend to a dear friend can be a lifeline for navigating through these
If you find yourself in a moment of upset or challenge, I invite you to try this four-step KIND process to bring you back to your heart as a parent. From this place of generosity and friendliness toward yourself, you can choose your next action bolstered by self-kindness and compassion.
KIND: Self-Kindness Exercise for Parents
KNOW you’re not alone
You usually won’t have to go far to assure yourself there’s another parent in a situation similar to yours. Start with envisioning the world and imagine all the parents who might be having the same experience. When you have that in focus, bring your awareness next to your country.
Imagine all the other parents in your country putting children to bed, leaving the park, making a meal, navigating big emotions with their child, or whatever you feel challenged by at this time. Move closer and bring into your awareness to all the parents in your city, your neighbourhood, and then your street. As you bring your thoughts closer, check in with how it feels to know you are likely not alone in experiencing this parenting challenge.
IMAGINE the voice of a dear friend, a mentor, or a supportive loved one.
Bring to mind someone who loves and supports you. Imagine a dear friend, a mentor who believes in you, or a supportive loved one. How would they comfort you right now? What could they say that you could receive as a message of kindness and compassion?
NAME what you are feeling Welcome and put words to whatever emotion is arising. You might begin by naming a primary emotion of anger, sadness, or fear. By naming our feelings, we automatically begin the process of regulating emotions in our brain. As you regulate, try exploring a little deeper to see if there is a more subtle emotion underneath. Is there overwhelm, frustration, fatigue, isolation, or discouragement beneath the surface? Continuing narrowing the focus and naming how you are
feeling until you get a sense you have identified your core feelings.
DELIVER self-kindness and compassion This last step is a way to bring comfort to yourself in this moment. Find a gesture where you can receive caring, kindness, and compassion. You might try placing your hand on your heart, gently touching your cheek, or putting your hands on your belly. Tell yourself, either out loud or in your mind, messages of support around the specific emotions you are feeling most acutely.
You can try phrases such as; “This is a challenging moment”or “It feels overwhelming but I know it’s natural to feel this way” or “I feel frustrated but I am making my way through this moment”, or “This is hard, I feel upset and yet I know I’ve got this.”
The intention of this kindness exercise is to bring you in touch with your heart in times of
“Connecting with kindness creates a space where you can see different ways of responding in the moment rather than acting from the place of charged emotions. .”
You may want to practice by bringing to mind a recent moment where you felt strong emotion. Imagine yourself back in the situation and try walking yourself through this process. The more you utilize the steps, even with small upsets through the day, the easier it will be to call forward the support in emotionally laden moments.
Can you imagine a feeling you might want to feel instead? Are you desiring more joy or a sense of calm? If so, what is one activity or situation that would help you shift? Even something small like a silly song or a favourite activity with your child can set you back on a path toward balance and calm.
Naming emotions and bringing self-kindness can be powerful tools for us as parents navigating in challenging times.
If you’d like a more detailed description of the neuroscience of naming emotions, you can dive into the science behind naming our emotions, by exploring the concept of “Name it to Tame It” with Dr. Dan Siegel.
For further exercises and a more detailed look at the current research around the power of self-compassion, you can experience the work of Dr. Kristen Neff through her website:
I’d love to hear your experience of using the KIND exercise. Read more and drop me a line at
Wishing you kindness and compassion in the days ahead,
Carole Marie Downing is a heart-centred coach, song leader, and facilitator passionate about supporting others and creating resilience through challenging times. She holds a Nursing Doctorate from the University of Colorado and as a nurse provided care in the areas of hospice, integrative medicine, and nursing education. She transitioned to coaching after receiving a Master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology with an emphasis in Consciousness, Health, and Healing.