What to have in mind when teaching Mindfulness to teenagers

Recently I was a guest speaker in one high-school on which I was supposed to introduce teaching Mindfulness. Since I usually teach about Mindfulness to youth who are familiar and motivated to learn about it and most of the time in small groups, I didn’t prepare anything special. I just do my usual talk and few simple exercises. After a few minutes, I’ve noticed that most of the class in which there were more than 30 pupils aged around 17, were completely unaware of my existence.

Most of them were talking, making jokes,sleeping and of course not listening.One of the students even said to me:“Maybe you are not interesting enough for us to listen to you.” When she said it I had a thought in my head: “Okay this is your chance to connect with them”, so I asked the group in a calm way: “Okay, maybe I am not so interesting, but as far as I can see, you are not listening to each other that much as well”.

So we started to talk about how much we are listening to each other, about our awareness,how we are dealing with different emotions, in which part of the body we can feel some specific emotions etc. When the class finished I’ve realized how at the beginning of the class I went in a wrong direction by trying to explain the theory of Mindfulness, and the moment we started to talk about them and connection of Mindfulness with their lives everything changed.

Inspired by this experience I’ve come up with some advice which you may find useful when teaching youth about Mindfulness:

  • Make Mindfulness relevant to their daily lives. If you want to teach about meditation and Mindfulness don’t go too much into theory and explanation of what does it mean. You can start by opening topics of stress in their lives, concentration before exams, emotions, relationships with their friends etc.
  • Be a role model. If you are anxious, easily provoked, no one will believe you.They need to see your calmness and peacefulness in action.
  • Teach them about all the benefits they can get from practicing Mindfulness and meditation: improved concentration and memory, less stress, lower risk for depression. You may also mention various research and studies about their influence on the brain (which can be quite an interesting topic for adolescents).
  • It is recommended to teach in smaller groups if possible (if not you should often divide them to pairs or smaller groups), to meet at least once per week if you decide to implement this as a longer training program.
  • Propose them to use Mindfulness phone applications. Some people are against it but I have to say they are quite popular among teenagers, here are some of them: “Stop, breath and think”, “Headspace” and “Take a break!”.

I’ve read somewhere: “remember that you are just planting seeds”. If you meet with students for two months once per week, it’s not much time. Some students will see the benefits of Mindfulness and meditation straight away and maybe some of them, later in life, will remember what you taught them and appreciate it in a new way.

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