Mindfulness for Teens: Helping Teens with Anxiety

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“Mindfulness is paying attention here and now, with kindness and curiosity, so that we can change our behaviour.”
~ Dr. Amy Saltzman

My daughter is 15 years old. And, she has recently started to worry about everything. She worries about school. She worries about friends. She worries about body image. She worries about what courses she’ll take next semester, next year, and the year after that. She worries about what field of study she should go into when she graduates from high school. She worries about what she’ll be when she grows up. She even worries about worrying. And all these worries generally come up during one anxiety-filled episode—as it did night before last.

My daughter is no different than most teens her age. In fact, her worries are similar to the worries I had during my teenage years. There is, however, a significant difference in how today’s teenagers try to manage their stress levels, compared to when I was growing up. I would have come home from school and shut my bedroom door. I would have rocked out to my favourite albums or listened to music on the radio, essentially drowning out the outside world as a means of escaping my teenage angst.

Today, teenagers come home from school and shut their bedroom door—just as I did. However, instead of turning on the radio or listening to their favourite albums, they watch YouTube videos or jump on social media where they are bombarded with mixed messages. They unintentionally allow the unsafe outside world to invade their inside safe space. These distractions, that are meant to act as shut-off valves to their daily stresses, inadvertently exacerbate their teen angst instead of helping to diminish it.

We live in a time when children and youth need to practise mindfulness more than ever. And, the earlier they can be introduced to mindfulness practices like meditation or yoga, the better.

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Studies prove that children who are taught mindfulness practices build attentiveness, self-control, and empathy while reducing stress levels, hyperactive behaviour, ADHD, and depression. Providing our next generation with the tools to help them manage their anxiety and build confidence, while nurturing compassion toward themselves and others—be it at home or in the classroom—is a gift they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

From an early age, it was instilled in my daughter that she could confide her feelings and emotions in me—free of judgement or guilt. A simple hug and sympathetic ear helped solve most of her problems. Now that she’s a teenager, it’s not always easy to get her to communicate. But, with a lot of patience and perseverance, we are eventually able to talk through her anxiety episodes together.

These days, when I see that she’s started spiraling into the great abyss, our conversation shifts to me saying: “Close your eyes and just breathe.” She listens. “Deep breath in,” I continue. “Hold it … okay, now breathe out slowly.” She does as she is told and I can see her starting to relax. Her mindset starts to shift.

Being a teenager is tough. Being the parent of a teenager can seem even harder at times. Incorporating mindfulness into family life can help make the difference between surviving as a family and thriving as a family.

The following video was created by Kelty Mental Health. It features teens and young adults, both male and female, discussing their experiences practising mindfulness. It offers insight into how mindfulness has benefited different aspects of their lives.

Please share this video with teenagers in your life. Mindfulness matters.

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