When we think about mindfulness, a lot of different things come to mind – yoga poses, sitting cross legged on a pillow or sipping a steamy, organic tea, for instance. What matters about mindfulness is not the format used to meditate – it’s about tapping into a calm, fluid mental state when things get overwhelming.
Chances are, when teens have a lot on their minds, they aren’t necessarily going to come to parents asking for ways to relax or tune in to their breath. Yet, finding simple methods to integrate mindfulness into the daily grind is a great way to empower young people to find a connection between their bodies and minds, and the take ownership of their emotional reactions to whatever life throws at them.
So, what’s the best way to introduce mindfulness to teens? The Center for Adolescent Studies talks about creating emotional safety through relating to teens mindfully,or finding a way to connect about a troublesome issue before delving into a calming activity. In some cases, this will require the support of a mental health professional. However, if you’re interested in integrating mindful practices with your teen at home, talk to them about it. Ask about what feels good and comfortable. Starting a mindfulness practice is all about making it feel natural and easy. Once meditation or deep breathing become familiar, teens can reliably turn to them as techniques in moments of panic, fear or stress.
Perhaps you start by playing music and sitting quietly together. Being relaxed together is the first step. Once you both feel ready, you can try deep breathing, counting to five as you breathe in, and to five as you breathe out. Or, if it’s more natural to have a conversation, using mindful words is a great way to connect with your teen. Try asking them how they are – and before they answer, have them close their eyes and take a deep breath, decide on a sentence or two (avoiding one-word answers), and look you in the eye while they respond. If a plainly candid response is intimidating, have them respond to you in qualities that feel more intuitive, like colors, the sounds of instruments or television characters. The key is to use mindful methods to set a precedent for calm, present conversation.