In this section
What is mindfulness?
How can mindfulness help teens?
Let teens know that practicing mindfulness can improve concentration, improve exam performance and reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression. Be sure teens who are new to mindfulness know that this is a skill that they will get better at over time. In the beginning, it may be hard to keep their mind focused, but the more they practice, the easier it should become.
Take 5ive™ videos
The videos feature calming nature scenes with voiced instructions throughout the practice or animations that are movement based. Remind them that it is common for the mind to wander and not to worry, just come back to the practice or movement and continue.
Other ways to practice mindfulness
Suggest that your teen keep a gratitude journal to help encourage them to slow down and pay attention to things they are grateful for. By participating in this exercise, over time teens learn to appreciate things big and small. Some may choose to create lists, write poems, or draw pictures.
Get a Hoberman sphere for your home to help practice breathing exercises. A Hoberman Sphere, or breathing ball, can help teach kids and teens mindful breathing. It can be used to demonstrate how the lungs fill with air and expand on the in-breath, then contract with the out-breath. It also serves as a point of focus, or anchor, for mindful breathing. Click here to learn more about how to use a Hoberman sphere.
Have your teen make a mindful jar to teach them about how strong emotions can take hold, and how to find peace when these strong emotions come up. Click here to see how to make and use a mindful jar.
Mindfulness coloring that uses shapes and patterns can encourage a calming mindful experience. Search online for mindfulness/adult coloring books or for free samples.
Think of ways to keep mindfulness practices fresh and unique. For example, if you have a lava lamp at home your teen could use that to practice focused breathing.
What is screen time?
Kids 8-18 spend about 6 hours a day in front of a TV, watching videos or playing video games. When school-related screen time is included, that average increases to 7.5 hours daily.
Screen time guidelines
Impact of screen time
Aggressive behavior, due to the tendency of kids to copy what they see, is a potential impact of too much screen time as well. They are also exposed to commercials and advertisements, so consumption habits can be affected as well.
How to reduce screen time
Set boundaries and timeframes so that your teen can engage in activities, like getting outside, reading, participating in music, the arts or sports.
Watch out for any behavioral changes, such as increased irritability, aggressiveness, selfishness or impatience.
Avoid putting TVs in bedrooms to reduce screen time and improve the quality of sleep that teens, and their parents, get!
Video: Conversation starters | Reducing screen time
Screen time before bed
At night, it’s helpful to stop using screens about 30 minutes before bed. It’s also helpful to charge electronic devices outside of the bedroom to reduce the temptation to use them. As a parent, it’s important that you model these health enhancing behaviors as well.
How much sleep teens need
Why sleep is important
Lack of sleep and drowsiness can also affect teens on the road. For teen drivers, getting enough sleep is incredibly important to reduce the chances of having an accident. Teens are twice as likely to be involved in a car accident if they don’t get enough sleep.
How to help teens get enough sleep
In the 4 hours before bedtime, it’s important that teens don’t have caffeine. Caffeine can be hidden in things like soft drinks, so be on the lookout. Eating too much or too little before bed can also have an impact on sleep due to discomfort that may be caused.
Having a routine at night can help to signal the body that it is time to wind down and go to bed. Also, a bedroom that is conducive to sleep is beneficial. It should be quiet, dark and cool to promote sleep. Sticking to a similar schedule and a routine on the weekends can help avoid disrupting your teen’s body clock.
Balance and stress
Types of stress
Acute stress is the most common type. This type of stress arises from demands and pressures from the past, current time and anticipated near-future demands. Too much acute stress can be exhausting, but it can be helpful in small doses.
Episodic acute stress is acute stress that happens frequently. People who worry ceaselessly experience this type of stress.
Chronic stress is the type that wears away at people day after day. Things like poverty or a dysfunctional home life would be examples of chronic stress. This type of stress occurs when people can’t see a way out of a hopeless or miserable situation.
How to help teens manage stress
Progressive muscle relaxation is another technique to help ease stress. To do this, contract one muscle group for 5 to 1 seconds while inhaling. On the exhale, release the tension in that muscle group. Give yourself 10 to 20 seconds to relax before moving onto the next muscle group. It can be helpful to go from the top of the body down or from the bottom up.
Visualization is the practice of imagining or envisioning a situation and the outcome that you wish to achieve. This mental practice can help to decrease feelings of worry or anxiety.
Setting small goals and getting regular exercise can also help to manage stress. Eating regularly and getting enough sleep without relying on caffeine or energy drinks can also help with this management. Changing the focus on things that can be controlled has been shown to be beneficial, and working through different scenarios out loud can help as well. Work on making expectations realistic, and schedule time to decompress and relax.