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5 Ways to Help Teens Engage in Mindfulness Sessions

Mindfulness with teens sounds amazing, but how do we get past the eye rolls and resistance? Over the years I’ve thought a lot about this, with a few successes and many failures. So, I’m sharing these five Rs as tips to help get things started.

Relevance

A lot of well-intentioned adults believe teens need mindfulness for mental health or for stress relief. For many teens, though, mental health stigma or other priorities can get in the way of trying something new. Like trying to teach kids anything, we need to make mindfulness relevant to their young lives. Keep reading for ideas on how to keep things relevant.

Recreation

Can mindfulness help young people with recreational activities they love? Yes! We know it can boost creativity in their passion for the arts, cultivate confidence for performances, and help them remain calm in new social situations. Mindfulness can keep their head in the game during penalty shots or free throws in the playoffs. Listening to music more mindfully helps them enjoy their favorite song a bit more, or appreciate down time and really helps them rest, relax and reset.

Teens can smell fakeness from a mile away, often as a matter of survival, so trusting and authentic relationships with a mindfulness facilitator and the rest of the group are key to helping them feel comfortable and open to practice.

Role Models

Did you know that Leo Messi got so bored during the pandemic that he started practicing meditation? How about gymnast Simone Biles using mindfulness to manage her stress during the Tokyo olympics? LeBron James leads meditations you can find online, and champions like the Golden State Warriors do mindful “mental fitness” training. The Beastie Boys and Wu-Tang Clan may be more my generation, but did you know Earl Sweatshirt, J Cole and Drake have all mentioned mindfulness and meditation? 

Relationships

Teens can smell fakeness from a mile away, often as a matter of survival, so trusting and authentic relationships with a mindfulness facilitator and the rest of the group are key to helping them feel comfortable and open to practice. 

Secondly, teens care a lot about relationships with other teens. What we adults think of teens may not be a priority for them, but they do care a lot about what peers think, and that’s evolutionarily and developmentally appropriate. This is not to say mindfulness will make them instantly popular, but everyone likes to be around people who are fully present. What’s more, they can share skills to help struggling friends. I might say to a skeptical kid “OK, maybe you don’t need mindfulness, but this breath practice can be a psychological first aid to help a friend struggling with anxiety, disappointment, or other strong emotions, and that can help you be a better friend.” 

Roll With It

With the right kids, sometimes we can get playful with sarcasm and resistance. “How does it feel to mindfully roll your eyes? Or giggle?” “How do you even know you are bored? What happens in your body or your mind?” This approach doesn’t always work, but sometimes you can get some mileage. Also remember that just because they roll their eyes now, doesn’t mean they aren’t listening. They often try to act too cool, but then they give it a shot later.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, and I’m sure you can think of dozens of other buy-in ideas for teens, but hopefully this list offers a start.

Lessons from the Fearless Retreat
Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief
 

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Tuesday, 25 June 2024

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