Mindfulness can be a tough sell to teenagers – I once asked a teen-age client if she would be interested in borrowing a CD with a guided body-scan and other various mindfulness meditation instructions. She told me if I gave her the CD she would smash it into a million pieces – Clearly she was not open to the idea of meditation, yet she was in great need of it!
Luckily for my therapy practice, I have been more successful with other teens. I’ve learned that the key to reaching teens is to put mindfulness meditation and relaxation techniques into terms they value – hence the cheeky title to this post. But It’s not just an empty sales pitch. When we are relaxed and mindful we have an easier time reading social cues and make better decisions in social situations.
Although teens frontal lobe activity is still developing well into their twenties, they do have frontal lobes. Mindfulness practices can help teens engage their frontal lobes, and slow down and weigh the outcome of their actions.
If you are a parent, coach, yoga teacher or therapist struggling to get a teenager to try stress reduction techniques, first put yourselves in their shoes. What is most important to teenagers? It’s probably not being more flexible through yoga, or getting a better night’s sleep through deep breathing. Let’s put ourselves into the teen mind to see how we might talk to these in-between beings in a way that might peak their curiosity about the benefits of mindfulness.
1. Teens want to be accepted – mostly by their peers, but also, even if they don’t realize it, by their parents and other adults. In her book, Our Last Best Shot, Laura Sessions Stepp theorizes that young teens are asking themselves questions like am I loved? am I loving? am I normal?, and their behavior is an attempt to get answers to these questions, sometimes in unhealthy ways. A Stress reduction regime can help teens relax, and believe that everything is okay, even during transitions.
2. Teens want to feel competent – Mindfulness can help build self-efficacy– loosely defined as a belief in one’s competence. Teens often have a hard time seeing the big picture. So many of my clients have described having no plans on a given saturday night as if it were the end of the world – and to tell you the truth, I remember that feeling well. Mindfulness exercises can help teens surf the waves of loneliness, and understand the concept of impermanence.
3. Teens want to feel safe – like most kids (and although they may not look like it, teens are still kids), teens want to feel safe in their environment. Mindfulness stress reduction exercises can help teens make better decisions that keep them out of harm’s way. Although teens frontal lobe activity is still developing well into their twenties, they do have frontal lobes. Mindfulness practices can help teens engage their frontal lobes, and slow down and weigh the outcome of their actions.
4. Teens want to master their moods – Teenagers don’t want to act like two-year olds, even though they often do. Through mindfulness, teens can learn that bad moods can be bad habits, and by noticing a bad mood before it gets out of control, teens can more often experience positive, or at least neutral emotions.
Our worksheet, Why Teens should Meditate, speaks directly to teens.
Know a teen in an abusive relationship? check outteenrelationships.org
It’s important for teens and parents to know the difference between a bad mood and a deeper depression. Click here if your are concerned for your teen’s safety.
We wish you twenty minutes of mindfulness every day!