Teens Are Better Off When Parents Practice Self-Compassion (Study)

A new study finds that children of mindfully self-compassionate parents tend to have lower rates of anxiety and depression.

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When their teenager struggles with anxiety or depression, many parents will blame themselves for the trouble. But a new study suggests that a self-compassionate attitude may be more helpful to the teen—and that the best way to foster that self-compassion is to cultivate mindfulness.

Researchers at Radboud University collected data from 901 Dutch families, using questionnaires to measure adolescents’ depression and anxiety, as well as parents’ well-being and approach to parenting.

The results, published in the Journal of Child Family Studies, replicate past research suggesting that mindful parenting is associated with better well-being in parents. Mindful parenting involves integrating the principles of mindfulness into parenting: listening to the child with full attention, being emotionally aware of and non-judgmentally accepting of the self and the child’s feelings, and not being overly reactive to stressful situations.

But the researchers found that the only facet of mindful parenting that seemed to increase an adolescent’s well-being is non-judgmentally accepting one’s parenting skills. In other words, parents who reported less self-blame—and were less self-critical of their own parenting—had adolescents with fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Why would a parent’s self-compassion influence their child’s well-being?