Mental health professionals are warning about the mental health fall out of the pandemic and living in quarantine. That may be true for teens, but I am seeing something else, something hopeful.
I am incredibly honored and privileged to be working with some amazing teens in my coaching practice right now. They are using the pandemic to grow. They are developing a mindfulness practice that helps them mitigate the effects of quarantine and the new protocols when they return to school.
Teens Asking the Tough Questions
Through the pandemic and the woes of online learning, teens have certainly wrestled with depression, anxiety, motivation, socializing virtually and what they may perceive as way too much parenting. But these brave, resilient teens seem inherently to know these difficulties are growth opportunities. They desire to finish the school year strong and they are asking the tough questions.
- How do I deal with my homework avoidance?
- I feel out of control, how do I handle them? I want to lash out. I’m only halfway successful at stopping myself.
- I can’t get motivated cause I’m online all the time! Help…
- My parents aren’t really hearing me, when I say school is just too much like this. How do I talk to them about it?
Asking the important questions usually means we are already on the path to answering the questions.
Teen Teachable Moments
These teens inspire me with their vulnerability and willingness to try new things. Our discussions often lead to boundary building by defining what we can and cannot control as human beings. Inevitably they come to the realize the truth of the paradox, we can only control ourselves not others, but by controlling ourselves we have profound influence over almost everything and everyone in our environment – just because of our attitude and energy shifts.
Teens seem ready to embrace the mystery of letting go of what we can’t control to have maximum influence. As one teen shared, “It just makes sense to me.”
Inevitably their desire to master themselves prompts a discussion about the principles of simple mindfulness.
Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens.
I explain to teens that a practice of mindfulness, helps our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future. A mindfulness focus helps teens find their own calm and inner wisdom which holds all the answers to the questions they pose.
Mindful deep breathing and awareness centers teens, placing them in the present (not the anxious future or depressed past) and gives them the ease to regulate their emotions. Practically that means I coach teens to manageably break down their assignments, confront test anxiety and release depression.
Teen Resources for Mindfulness
I’ve put together a resource guide for teen mindfulness practice. It has free phone applications and guides to download to help teens find their center and co-create solutions. Here are a few of the suggestions.
Stop, Breathe, and Think: Free mobile app for youth with meditations for mindfulness and compassion.
Calm.com: Free website and mobile app with guided meditation and relaxation exercises.
Insight Timer: Free mobile app with virtual “bells” to time and support your meditations.
MindShift: Free mobile app for teens developed by AnxietyBC, with mindfulness and other coping skills for anxiety.
Smiling Mind: Free mobile mindfulness app for young people, from Australia.
Headspace: “Meditation made simple.” Free introductory period, then a paid subscription.
Online Resources Mindfulness for Teens
Mindfulness for Teens This website explains mindfulness and its benefits and offers free guided meditations of varying lengths. The site was created by Dzung X. Vo, M.D., FAAP, a pediatrician specializing in adolescent medicine, at British Columbia’s Children’s Hospital. www.mindfulnessforteens.com
Mindful Magazine This online magazine offers articles and videos on the benefits of mindfulness and how to start a practice. www.mindful.org
Tools for Peace This site lists the benefits of mindfulness for individuals, schools and communities. You can register for online programs for adults and in-person camps for children and teens. This organization also offers a mindfulness app called Stop, Breathe & Think. www.toolsforpeace.org
But Parents, Beware of the By-Product of Mindfulness
The calm, centering effect of a mindfulness practice, causes teens to see the dysfunction of our education system. That may mean we will have to consciously examine our expectations about school and school performance, especially during the pandemic. It may mean that we consciously support other types of personal growth that can be embraced for a well-rounded life.
Truly listening to our teen’s needs, takes courage and a willingness to creatively build solutions WITH them that are in their long-term best interest.
- We may need to let go of our unrealistic academic expectations.
- We may reconsider the school setting our teens are in
- Or we may need to balance extracurricular activities.
You can take Mindful Action by visiting, https://LauraLReagan.com