Taking a Compassion-Focused Approach to Parenting
It’s easy to see why compassion, defined as sensitivity to distress and a motivation to prevent and alleviate it, is central to parenting. But it’s also important for parents themselves (as self-compassion), and exercises used in Compassion Focused Therapy can even help pregnancy rates. Wellbeing in pregnancy is also important – not only for parents, but also for the developing baby (or babies!).
Here are just a few of the ways that CFT may be of benefit for parenting:
- Studies show that stress can reduce the likelihood of conception. Many people, when attempting to conceive a child and finding it difficult, are told ‘relax, don’t get so stressed’. This is easier said than done! Because CFT aims to improve wellbeing and decrease stress, it’s just one of the many ways you can get your mind and body ready for conception.
- During pregnancy, your own and your babies’ physical and psychological wellbeing is affected by the food you eat, the fluids you drink, the exercise you take, the stress you are under and even how you relate to yourself (critically or compassionately). CFT aims to improve your wellbeing by motivating you to make helpful choices that are important to you and your developing baby.
- CFT focuses on understanding yourself in the context of your life, and it places considerable emphasis on your early life experiences and your attachments. Learning more about bonding can help you as a parent and, in so doing, can help the children that you parent.
- Unfortunately, shame and self-criticism, anxiety, and depression are common human experiences. Such difficulties can become more pronounced, or begin, during pregnancy, and a number of new mums experience trauma symptoms, mania and/or psychosis following childbirth. CFT has been found to be helpful for such difficulties.
- CFT emphasises the concept of common humanity and the common difficulties people face. Focusing on how people are similar rather than different can help you to develop social networks and a profound sense of connection with others.
- A new baby can trigger parents to reflect on their own early life experiences and their relationship with their parents. It can also change the dynamics between couples, and also between parents and the extended family, and this can bring strain and conflict. CFT can help us to understand such difficulties and work through them.
Michelle Cree wrote an excellent book in 2015: The Compassionate Mind Approach to Postnatal Depression. Although focusing on those who suffer low mood following childbirth, it’s also packed with information of relevance to all parents and is well worth a look.