Do you worry about how to instill mindfulness in your teen? Or about his/her anxiety? How about their reliance on social media? Or all of the above?
Today’s Teens Face Complicated Challenges
Teen suicide rates are the highest since 2000 and in today’s fast-paced world, teens experience more anxiety than ever before. They’re under social media assault, spending an average of NINE hours per day on SnapChat, Instagram, Tik Tok, or whatever the latest trend is. More than half of teens admit they spend too much time on their cellphones.
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They’re also under a ton of pressure as they start to think about their future. College admissions are more competitive
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than ever. So teens often experience high stress as they attempt to round out their resumes by performing academically, excelling in sports and giving back to their community.
Their schedules are packed to the gills. Way more packed than mine was at that age!
And day to day life can be hard for teens. For some, it’s important to be in certain social groups, so they’ll try whatever they can to fit in. Others deal with drama-filled relationships with their peers (or family).
I talked to my teen stepdaughter recently about all she faces and I was surprised at how hard she thinks about the choices she makes.
Whether it’s choices related to “peer pressure” topics or just things that might hurt someone’s feelings, she is acutely aware that there can be long-term consequences for her decisions. That’s not a small burden to take on.
Parents Try To Help, But Don’t Have All The Answers
While some parents have misguidedly tried to help their kids (see, for example, the college admissions scandal that has played out over the last year), others struggle to find the right resources to help their children cope with all the noise around them.
I don’t know about you, but it’s a constant topic between my husband Craig and me. We are concerned about how much our kids take on. And how to encourage them to stay in the “kid zone” as long as possible before taking on big responsibilities.
And we absolutely don’t have all the answers.
The new book, Mindfulness for Teens in 10 Minutes a Day: Exercises to Feel Calm, Stay Focused & Be Your Best Self, aims to help. I want to disclose upfront that I received a review copy of the book but my views and opinions are my own.
I was excited when this book crossed my desk. Maybe it would contain some tools that I could suggest for my stepdaughter. And that I could share with you.
About The Book
The author, Jennie Marie Battstin, MA, LMFT, is a licensed marriage family therapist practicing in California. She graduated cum laude with a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University.
Battstin served as a facilitator for Angst, a documentary on anxiety that created a dialogue among students, teachers, and parents about the challenges of coping with anxiety. She is a mother to five grown children and the founding director of Hope Therapy Center, Inc. Marriage and Family Counseling of Burbank and Santa Clarita.
In Mindfulness For Teens, Battstin walks the reader through why mindfulness is important and how it can help teens. And why they should take a few minutes a day to develop the skill to be the “boss” of their mind and feelings.
From improving their mood to helping them focus and to sleep better, there are many benefits to taking a few minutes a day to take a step back and become more present.
The book contains 60 exercises that teens can choose from to do on a daily basis. They’re short, around ten minutes each.
Taking A Breath
There are exercises for every time of day, and you can generally start at whatever time you’d like. But the basis for all of them is breathing.
Whether or not you feel stressed, deep breathing can help. My Apple Watch pings me to deep breathe throughout the day. I don’t actually do it every time it pings me, but when I take the time to, I almost always feel a little more relaxed (maybe I should take its hint a but more often?).
Battstin lays out several different types of deep breathing. One for a quick energy boost, one for deep relaxing, and another to use right before doing something stressful, like taking a test.
Whether teens do any of the other exercises in the book, these breathing practices are useful and will provide benefits.
Mindfulness Exercises For Teens
In the book, Battiston includes an overview of what mindfulness means and why it’s important.
Explaining why mindfulness exercises can help regulate daily stress, Battistin says, “In 2011, Sara Lazar and her team at Harvard found that mindfulness meditation can actually change the structure of the brain: eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was found to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory, and in certain areas of the brain that play roles in emotion regulation and self-referential processing.”
Some of the 60 exercises in the book seem a little silly. Like the “Superhero Stance,” which has the reader stand in a power pose and repeat postive affirmations.
Or the “Monkey Moment,” which has the reader envision anxiety as a little monkey.
That being said, there are also exercises like the “Connection Junction,” that help you dive in more deeply with your emotions.
There’s even an exercise called “Self-Care-ation” that has your teen put together a Ziploc bag with items that he/she enjoys. Maybe its some flavored lip balm, a couple of lollipops, gum, or scented lotion. The exercise guides the reader through pulling out and using one of the items in a thoughtful manner.
I enlisted my teenage stepdaughter to help me read through the book. I figured she’s as close to its target audience as anyone.
Taking some time for self-care wasn’t something she had put much thought into. We’ve certainly talked a lot about the pressures facing high school kids.
But she was interested in in the science behind mindfulness. And more so, the idea of reserving a few minutes a day. Whether to do these exercises, to meditate or stretch, or to just be.
So she read through the book and tried some of the exercises.
She thought some of them were goofy. Although she didn’t say this, I suspect she felt a little self-conscious doing them. But overall, she was sort of interested in the idea of taking a few minutes a day to center herself and to take a breath.
She knows she puts a lot of pressure on herself to succeed. So she felt like a little self-care like this could be useful.
Now, whether the book and its practices hold her attention longer than her latest snap? That remains to be seen. I’m certainly going to continue to encourage her to practice some self-care and mindfulness.
My thoughts? Mindfulness for Teens is not a silver bullet that will fix all the anxiety our teens face. But it is an interesting tool to help teens cope with their day to day stress and bring joy back into their lives.
I’d love to hear from you. If you have kids, what kinds of ways do they take a pause from their busy lives? Or how do you do it?