According to research conducted in the United States between 2012 and 2015, 50% more teenage girls and 21% more teenage boys suffered from stress, tension and symptoms linked to depression. The statistics among students are also alarmingly high: 61% experienced severe anxiety, 39% functioned poorly due to depression-like symptoms and 62% felt lonely. Ten percent have contemplated suicide.

These numbers speak for themselves: many teenagers experience more stress than they can handle. The important question is: how can we help?


Self-compassion offers a solution. Self-compassion in the sense that you are kind to yourself. Treat yourself just as you would treat a friend when he or she is having a difficult time. Mindful self-compassion consists of 3 elements:

Mindfulness helps you deal with emotional challenging events in a more balanced way. Common humanity reminds us that we are all human, that you are not the only one struggling and that struggles are part of everyone’s life. Being kind to yourself invites us to treat ourselves during hard times the same way we would treat a friend.

Proven effective

Teenagers with more self-compassion are less anxious, less stressed and less depressed. They are also more resilient to the negative consequences of low self-confidence, of feeling like a victim and of traumatic experiences. Teenagers who have followed a self-compassion training demonstrate more overall resilience, more satisfaction with their lives and generally more positive moods.

Experiences of teenagers

Following the training, teenage participants were asked how it impacted them. One boy said he was no longer worried about others liking him: “I like myself!” Another always felt that she needed someone to acknowledge that she was good at something: “I now have myself and that’s someone too.” Another said she could handle stressful situations with more ease because she could now calm herself down and keep things in perspective.

Making Friends with Yourself

A self-compassion program can really help teenagers. Therefore Karen Bluth and Lorraine Hobbs co-created the Making Friends with Yourself (MFY) program for this.

In this video Karen Bluth and Lorraine Hobbs explain how self-compassion and the Making Friend With Yourself program can help teens, including testimonials and research findings:

Do you work with teens or young adults?

Do you work with teens or young adults, for example in education or in a clinical setting, and do you wish to help them deal with the emotional fluctuations of daily life with greater ease? Then attend the teacher training Making Friends With Yourself, which is taught by the developers themselves at Centrum voor Mindfulness in the Netherlands.

Read more and become a MFY teacher

This article is a loose translation of the original article by Karen Bluth in Psychology Today.

Author: Klaas Smit, freelance writer