As adults we tend to be pretty opinionated about how teenagers have become in the last decade or so. Playing the devil's advocate here, what if the teens and students are actually under a great deal of stress and we are simply refusing to acknowledge it?
Perhaps teens and adolescents are ill-equipped to deal with the daily stressors and pressures put upon them today, and they are simply reacting the best way they know how. Which is why mindfulness training for teens and students is getting more and more attention, and it's working!
What is mindfulness you ask? Mindfulness employs a series of techniques to help quiet the mind, create a focal point, and be in the present moment without freaking out. Day to day life can bring in all sorts of circumstances begging for an emotional release, but when mindfulness exercises are employed and practiced, even angsty teens and students can control their thoughts and respond rather than react.
Teen Stress is Very Real
What stress could an adolescent or teen possibly have? Ha! They are under a great deal of pressure with tests and finals, college prep courses, learning how to cope with romantic relationships for the first time, and a lot of the time dealing with uncomfortable social situations. Often times, these are firsts for them and they are feeling their way through it.
More often than not, when it's relationship advice they need, they don't come running to the parentsÖ they ask their friends. The friends who are also dealing with sensitive things for the first time and making mistake after mistake, learning along the way.
Mindfulness for teens and students is profoundly effective in creating a safe place. A place where they can stop, focus on stopping their ever-running minds, and breathe. Believe it or not, mindfulness is even being employed in many schools across the country.
Parental Help is Required
Here are some tips and tricks to think about when encouraging teens and students to engage in practicing mindfulness:
Practice what you preach. If you're going to teach them how to make calmer, mindful decisions and encourage them to practice mindfulness, you should be making an effort to be doing the same. Set a good example and they are more likely to at least give this a try.
Ready the environment. In the midst of chaos isn't the best time to start a mindfulness exercise for a beginner. Create the proper environment for success, otherwise the likelihood of them continuing or trying this on their own will be nil.
Terminology is vital. Make sure you aren't using ancient Buddhist vocab or dropping Latin phrases that they aren't going to comprehend. Keep it simple. Keep it clean. If you want them to engage, they have to understand your language. Be sure to focus on the benefits.
Talk about it. When you are finished, talk about the sensations and feelings and encourage interchange. If they see their peers getting into it, they might enjoy it more. You'll also get a feeling on how you could switch things up based on their opinions and responses.
Routine is everything. If you are going to incorporate mindfulness, go all in. Make it part of the weekly or even daily schedule. You'll never get results if you try it once in a blue moon or only when things get out of control.
Mindfulness Techniques for Teens
Now let's look at a few exercises you can try with these guys and gals to help them have a good mindfulness experience.
Have your kiddo do some jumping jacks for one minute and then have them sit down, close their eyes, place a hand over their heart and use their heart as the focal point. As the heartbeat slows, so does the breathing. Encourage them to focus on the heartbeat and to experience all that is happening to their body, using all their senses.
While lying down on their back in a comfortable spot, have them close their eyes and scan the body for tension. Tighten up every muscle group in the body while inhaling, hold it for a few seconds, and then breathe out any tension while letting their muscles relax. They could even try and do muscle groups individually for this one; arms, legs, head and neck, faceÖ all during different breaths. Have them break it down even further and do hands and feet separately.
Fill up a jar or bottle with water and put about a tablespoon or so of any color glitter in it. Have the teen shake the jar up and watch the glitter swimming and swirling around. Use the glitter as the focal point in this exercise. Encourage taking controlled breaths in and out as the glitter slowly comes to a stop in the bottom of the jar. At the end, point out that they can see more clearly as the chaos in the jar has ended.
There are many ways to incorporate mindfulness for teens and students. The idea here is really to help these young people develop skills like self-control, a better focus and attention level during class time and testing, increased sense of well-being and greater social skills. Consider using mindfulness for teens and students methods to establish a life-long impact on their psychological, cognitive and social lives.