How To Get The Teens In Your Life To Care About Mindfulness
People so desperately want to help their students, children, nieces and nephews, younger siblings, and neighbors learn about mindfulness, partly because the teen years can be so challenging and partly because mindfulness makes life fuller and more satisfying.
So unsurprisingly, when I told people I was working on a mindfulness book for teens, Zen Teen, pretty much everyone could pinpoint someone in his or her life who could use it. Here are some tips I've identified in my research that will make the topic of mindfulness more engaging for teens and young adults:
1. Make mindfulness normal.
Instead of telling your teen, "We're going to try this new thing called being less reactive, but it's kind of difficult to explain and takes time to get used to," remember that mindfulness really is normal now. Educators are even starting to teach it in schools across the country!
When talking to your teen, consider saying something more along the lines of, "Hey, I think you might need to take a step back from this stressful situation with your friend and just witness what's happening for a while." Talk about mindfulness techniques as if they are the most natural thing in the world, and keep in mind that your teen has probably already been exposed to these tools.
2. Remember: Monkey see, monkey do.
The more your kids see you practicing mindfulness techniques, the more they will want to do it too—at least when they are young. If you usually meditate in the morning for 15 minutes, consider making it a family practice (you can still have a private meditation later in the day). If your teen is rebellious, remember they are also wise. So they might still consciously choose to adopt your mindfulness habits. Regardless, what you model for them now will become what they practice as adults whether they want to or not. It's just what people do—they subconsciously adopt the patterns of their parents. Give your teens some healthy ones!
3. Tell teens how much mindfulness will help them.
Some teens just feel things strongly and deeply, for example, and might have trouble managing and expressing these emotions. Instead of teens always feeling overwhelmed by or at the mercy of an emotional storm, mindfulness techniques can teach them how to process and put their emotions in perspective. A relief for everyone in the house, as the collective emotional energy will begin to feel more neutral. Teens are like everyone else—they want to find ways to make their lives better.
4. Present mindfulness as simple and straightforward.
I say in the intro of my book that if you asked 100 different people for a definition of mindfulness, you would probably get 100 different answers. Sometimes there is value in boiling things down to their essence. Find other words to describe mindfulness so it easily makes sense to teens. You could say that being mindful means being more aware, more thoughtful, more focused, more calm, or more present. I'd also explain to teens that mindfulness gives them tools to have more control over their lives and encourages them to think of themselves as co-creators of their reality.
5. Mindfulness should feel like fun, not homework.
It can be really easy to slip into clinical-sounding language when talking about mental health and mindfulness. But there are plenty of fun ways to sneak mindfulness into your family routine. You might invite your teen to do a ritual or ceremony with you around the full moon, for example, to mindfully release an old pattern or situation from their life. Or you could start a surrender jar, inviting everyone in the house to write something on a slip of paper and place it in the jar whenever they are ready to surrender an issue to the universe.
Could you use your own refresher on mindfulness before you pass it along to your kid? Check out this guide to working more mindfulness into your day-to-day, even if you're not a meditator.