Mindfulness for Tweens and Teens
During a recent mindfulness class, the middle school aged participants were asked to write a “Loving Kindness” message that was placed in basket. At the end of the six-week session, the kids all took a message. Amid the wishes for happiness and fun times with friends, was the wish for the reader to, “get into the college of your choice.”
To see that 12 year olds are already thinking about college admissions is a glimpse of the pressures that kids are facing. Homework assignments, athletics, music or drama rehearsals, and the already challenging social dynamics of the average middle school, it’s no wonder kids are feeling overwhelmed. Even for adults it can be hard to figure out how to manage it all. And that’s where mindfulness can help.
UW Health’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program has existed for more than 20 years. During the last three years they have begun offering classes for teens and middle school age kids. The classes are very similar to the adult versions, but with some variations such as shorter class times, more social interaction and even games to help illustrate whatever is being discussed.
Even for tweens and teens, they may not realize or be able to articulate the emotions they’re feeling. Through the exercises in the Mindfulness classes, they begin to realize what stress is and how it may feel in their bodies. Once they are able to do that, they can begin to figure out how to manage the feelings in ways that are most helpful for them. They also have a chance to see they are not alone in struggling with life stresses, and while the participants are often from different backgrounds, they develop a sense of community as they learn and explore together.
One requirement of the class is that parents of participants actually meet together with the instructors to learn about what to expect before the sessions begin. More than few participants cite their reason for their signing up was that their parents “made them.” But what’s important for parents to remember is that it’s really up to the kids to decide how to interact with the practice. And the benefits may be varied. Some teens report that they normally have trouble sleeping but as they do the practices before bedtime, they are able to fall asleep and stay asleep, which is critical for young bodies. Some may use simple activities to calm nerves before an important exam or game. While others may find practicing regularly helps them feel better as they face the challenges of school.
UW Health offers mindfulness classes for middle schoolers and for teens. Upcoming classes include:
Mindful Compassion for Teens (March 27, 2017 through May 22, 2017)
Mindfulness for Middle Schoolers (May 2, 2017 through June 6, 2017)