Parenting and caregiving is both rewarding and challenging and there is no recipe or guidebook!
Our compassion resilience work began with individuals, primarily in schools, healthcare settings and youth-serving organizations. Teachers and nurses would come up to us afterwards and share how helpful this was not only in their professional lives, but for them as parents and caregivers. This feedback from the community prompted us to develop the parent and caregiver compassion resilience toolkit. The content of the toolkit has been strongly informed by research and best practices related to resilience, positive psychology, compassion fatigue, family development, and mindfulness. Parent advocates, family specialists, and child educators worked with us to shape this toolkit and to pilot it with multiple groups of parents and caregivers. These pilots reinforced what we had been hearing – that indeed parents and caregivers want to explore the topics herein together!
What is Compassion Resilience?
Compassion is the combination of the consciousness of others’ distress and a desire to alleviate it. It is a basic quality needed to best support the needs of our children and family. Resilience is the ability to recover and continue in the face of adversity without being overwhelmed or acting in dysfunctional ways. If our goal is to lessen our child’s distress while maintaining our well-being, we can seek to grow our compassion resilience. Simply, compassion resilience, is the ability to maintain our physical, emotional, and mental well-being while responding compassionately to people who are suffering.
Compassion resilience for parents and caregivers is:
- Caring for ourselves while acting with compassion in interactions with children, family members, and those we count on to support us;
- Practicing skills to effectively engage in compassionate action with and towards children, family members, and those we count on to support us;
- Identifying, preventing, and minimizing compassion fatigue within ourselves.
Think of this resilience as a reservoir of well-being that we can draw upon on difficult days and in difficult situations. This toolkit will explore the protective factors that build and maintain compassion resilience for parents and caregivers.
Why Build Resilience?
Very few of us come to our role as parents knowing fully how to prepare a child for life in the world as well as all the behavioral challenges that are presented to us by our children. At times, parenting can be overwhelming and can lead to burnout if measures are not taken to build skills, support resilience and alleviate the symptoms. A focus on compassion resilience enhances our capacity to empathize with our child’s suffering, supports our ability to parent in accordance with our values and goals, and builds our own life satisfaction. Children may also benefit from mindful, compassionate parenting by learning how to handle challenges and act with compassion through our modeling.
This toolkit helps us recognize compassion fatigue and its consequences, hone our family values and goals, develop a strong set of skills to manage expectations, set boundaries within our family, and practice real-time and ongoing self-care. When participating as part of a group, this content encourages risk-taking and exploration of new ideas that contribute to our family’s ability to thrive.