Self-Compassion for Parents of Children with IBD

This research project aims to explore whether an online self-compassion intervention, that focuses on helping individuals respond to themselves in a kinder and more accepting way, helps to support parents of children with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) with the inevitable challenges they face.


Parenting a child with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) can understandably be challenging and distressing at times. It is common for parents to feel guilty or even to blame themselves for their child’s condition. It is therefore important that parents are offered the necessary support to help both them and their families navigate this journey. This research project aims to explore the effectiveness of an online self-compassion intervention (SCI) that focuses on helping parents respond to themselves in a kinder and more accepting way.

We are specifically interested in whether this SCI can help parents of children with IBD foster a sense of self-compassion and reduce the distress, guilt and shame they may often experience.



We hope to recruit approximately 128 parents of children with IBD to our study. Adverts will be posted on relevant charity websites, social media pages, support groups, and online academic research participation sites. Participants will be entered into a £50 Amazon voucher prize draw for taking part.


This study will be administered online via Qualtrics, a survey platform that can be accessed on a smartphone, tablet or computer. Once participants have provided informed consent, they will be asked to complete baseline questionnaires to measure self-compassion, parental distress, guilt and shame. Participants will then be asked to think and write about a recent difficult parenting event in relation to their child with IBD.

They will then be randomised to one of two groups:

  1. One group of participants will receive the SCI which will prompt participants to think and write a few sentences about the event in a self-compassionate manner;
  2. The other group of participants will act as a control group and will therefore be asked to write a few neutral sentences about the event.

All of the participants will then repeat some of the questionnaires before entering a follow-up phase of the study, in which they will be instructed to access a link to engage in the same SCI or active-control condition task every-day for two-weeks.

All participants will then complete the questionnaires a final time, before receiving a debrief information sheet and information on how to access and continue engaging in the SCI materials.

Statistical Analysis

Participants’ scores on the questionnaires will be collected and analysed. We will test whether, compared to the active-control group, participants receiving the SCI report increased self-compassion and reduced distress, guilt and shame.

Implications for Research and Clinical Practice

Through understanding the effectiveness of an online SCI for parents of children with IBD, we hope that our research will help to inform and improve the parental support offered for parents of children with IBD. Not only would this improve parental wellbeing, it would hopefully have a positive effect on children with IBD and their wider families.

We hope that future research will be able to build on our findings to further understand how best we can support parents of children with IBD. Issues that arise during our study will be highlighted in the report so that they can be the subject of future research.

By Annie Wray (under the supervision of Dr Georgina Rowse & Dr Rebecca Yeates), Clinical Psychology Unit, University of Sheffield

If you’d like to find out more about how Crohn’s & Colitis UK can support young people and families of people with Crohn’s or Colitis, there’s lots of information on our website.