7 Tips for Teaching Mindfulness to Teens
“Conscious parenting is not about being perfect, it’s about being aware. Aware of what your kids need from you to reach more of their full potential.” ~ Alex Urbina
Mood swings, heightened vulnerability, a pressing need for social recognition, enormous stress at school, total control from adults—are just a few factors that influence teenagers every day. And yet somewhere amidst all this constant turbulence, a personality is being formed. So your child needs to learn to deal with stress, battling negative emotions, ignoring frustrations, controlling their behavior, building healthy relationships, and setting the right goals for life.
Adolescence is especially important when it comes to personality formation, since most habits and behavioral patterns form at the age of 10 to 19, and can later determine the course of their entire adult life. The sooner teenagers begin practicing mindfulness, the easier they can navigate through their independent life.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a concept in modern psychology, defined as continuous tracking of current experiences, that is, the state in which the subject focuses on the experience of the present moment, without being involved in thoughts about past or future events. This is the ability to consciously introspect one’s activities.
Being mindful is being perceptive, becoming aware of feelings, events, objects, and sensory attitudes. In a broader sense, it is a state of awareness. In biological psychology, mindfulness is defined as the ability of a person or animal to perceive and cognize states or events.
10 Characteristics of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is not easily understood or controlled. If you would like to understand if you are mindful, we prepared a list of 10 characteristics of mindfulness that will let you know if you have what it takes to be considered mindful. Experts identify the following criteria for this concept:
- Being non-judgmental
Could you tick all the points on this list? If not, don’t worry: mindfulness is as much a journey as it is a destination!
Why Is Mindfulness Important?
We know that mindfulness is good for us. It helps us raise our children to act with intention, cultivates intelligence, the ability to withstand instinctive reactions and mindless actions. But mindfulness is also good for our children to learn. Research shows that mindfulness can help children improve their attention span, calm down when they are upset, and make better decisions. In short, it helps regulate emotions and focus on developing cognitive skills.
However, if we simply try talking to teenagers about mindfulness they will likely be bored and confused. Hence, we need a more tailored approach. So, where do we start? How can we teach these important skills to our children?
Why Developing Mindfulness Is Crucial as a Teen?
According to multiple studies, teens will likely experience stress during their school year, but unfortunately, most of them cannot effectively cope with stress on their own. The most common ways teens use to deal with their anxiety are video games and social media, which are good distractions, but ultimately don’t bring any quality change. Teens that mastered consciousness can significantly reduce their stress and anxiety levels. In addition, through the practice of mindfulness, young people can nurture self-awareness.
The practice of mindfulness in adolescence is of particular importance, since during that period of life people often choose a profession, friends, actively build communication skills, and socialize.
Start with Yourself
You can’t expect to successfully teach your kids mindfulness if you haven’t mastered it yourself. As a start, practice mindfulness on your own. You can start slowly by practicing meditation. Simply dedicate as little as 5-10 minutes per day to meditation. Keep in mind that starting meditation is hard. Shutting down inner dialogue and canceling the “noise” takes time and practice.
Find small ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily activities. Don’t let this step intimidate you. You probably already have a lot of conscious habits! Your children can use meditation too. Although it is much harder to cultivate a habit of meditation in children, research shows that mediation is beneficial for the brain and behavior.
Keep it Simple
Mindfulness is a big word that children don’t understand easily. Try explaining it simply, as a state of awareness, noticing our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and everything that is happening inside us and around us at this very moment.
Manage Your Expectations
Do you expect mindfulness to eliminate tantrums? To calm your restless child? To bring peace and silence to your home? If so, you are likely to be disappointed. While feeling quiet or calm are pleasant side effects of mindfulness, they are not the ultimate goal.
The goal of practicing mindfulness with children is to equip them with skills, so they can develop their awareness, understand and manage their inner and outer experiences, learn to hear their thoughts, understand how emotions arise, noticing when they are losing focus, and teach them control over impulses.
This is no panacea, and it will not help completely get rid of what is, frankly, normal teenager behavior, like hysterics and noise, whining, and arguments.
Don’t Force it
If your children are not interested in your lessons or activities, do not force them to take part in them. Each child develops a bit differently, so maybe you should try a different approach or try practicing mindfulness a bit later in life. Either way, don’t give up on your attempts to cultivate mindful behavior, but don’t senselessly push it onto a kid. It will only cause conflict and resentment.
Our Advice on Educating Teenagers about Mindfulness
Now that we’re done with theoretical introductory information, here are some practical tips on how you can begin instilling mindfulness in your children:
1. Listen to sounds.
An easy way for children to practice mindfulness is focusing and listening to extraneous sounds. You can use a singing bowl, bell, or phone app that uses sounds. Make a sound for 30 seconds or a minute at a time.
2. Practice breathing.
Children and teens can find it difficult to control their breathing. A good way to learn is by watching someone else doing it first. Here is a helpful tutorial on breathing techniques for mindfulness from a Buddhist monk!
3. Make your walks mindful.
The mindful walk is a favorite technique for many. It is simple. It can be done anywhere and at any time, and requires no prepping. However, despite its seeming simplicity, a mindful walk requires effort to be present, and not simply be “in your head.” As you walk, be silent and try noticing things that you have not paid attention to before. It is helpful to walk amidst nature: in a forest or park, paying attention to surrounding sounds; frogs, woodpeckers, lawnmowers, etc.
4. Make gratitude your habit.
Gratitude is an often overlooked component of mindfulness. It teaches our children to value abundance in their lives, instead of focusing on all the material things they don’t possess. It is a good practice for the entire family before dinner to share something they were grateful for on that day. Furthermore, it becomes a moment of true connection for many families.
5. Practice Eco-friendliness.
Environmental education for children and students proves to be very ineffective since they usually live with their parents and have to adjust their personal habits to those of their relatives. Therefore, convincing teens of the benefits of sustainable living is practically useless if they are not supported by adults at home. So, if you want your children to be mindful of the environment, you should instill some eco-friendly habits in your household, like sorting trash, using reusable plastic, etc.
6. Make a Token of Tranquility.
Token of tranquility is an object: It can be something like a glass snow globe. A good practice for finding inner tranquility is sitting down, shaking it, breathing slowly, and simply observing the flutter of the particles in the orb. Seeing the snowflakes descend and calm down has a therapeutic and calming effect on the brain.
7. Try mindful eating.
Mindful eating is a must, especially for teenagers. When we eat in front of the computer or TV we may overeat, and rarely comprehend if what we are eating is good for our body. Eating habits are extremely difficult to change later in life, so setting some rules for teenagers will go a long way. For example, that meal can only be had with no distractions like phone or television.
Need help learning mindfulness meditation? Check out Mindfulness Meditation Made Simple: Your Guide to Finding True Inner peace (paperback).
It is important to remember that your job as a parent is providing your children with opportunities, suggesting helpful techniques, but not re-inventing them as a person. Get accustomed to the idea that some techniques will work and some will not. Don’t get angry at the teenager for being unwilling to accept new rules right away. It basically contradicts their “core programming” as an adolescent person. We urge you not to forget that your responsibility as a parent is not bullying children into obedience, but loving and educating them.
About the Author
Writer, online tutor, and educator, Bridgette is passionate about teaching people of all ages to discover their strengths. Years of hands-on experience as a teacher provided her with comprehensive knowledge about youth and parenting, as well as a profound understanding of human nature and behavior.
Bridgette also works towards educating her peers about creative writing and conducting research on various topics. You can get a feel of her work here. In her free time, Bridgette loves horseback riding and tracking.
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