If you’re parenting teens you might tend to be very cautious about suggesting new activities to them. Sometimes they seem to reject any idea if it is coming from a parent!
Practices that promote mindfulness won’t elicit the same eyeball rolling reactions, though. By the time they are in high school, many kids have already experienced some type of focusing activities in school, sports, music, theater club, dance, martial arts, and other places. Kids have a keen interest in performing better at academics or some other activity that they love and care about, and they know that mental focusing practices can help.
There is somewhat mysterious nature in some mindfulness activities that also attracts teens’ attention. These emerging adults are exactly in the right frame of mind to expand their knowledge by trying something new.
Also it helps that yoga and meditation based activities are highly experiential. These practices bring on sensations, moments of clarity and emotional openings that will be very intense and very individual to your high schooler .
Be deeply mindful yourself when you approach your teen about mindfulness practice. Your purpose is to help them start on path that supports their well-being, but also helps expand their awareness of being.
Consider what really matters to your high schooler at this time? Is it academic success? Feeling happier and more balanced emotionally? Getting inspiration for creative projects? Once you are clear about what your teen truly wishes for, then spend some time yourself learning one or more of the activities listed here. Then, don’t hesitate to share with your teens what you’ve learned and experienced. They will thank you for it!
This activity (called Trataka) has ancient origins in the Himalayan yogic practice of gazing at the rising sun. The first few times you will need to provide verbal directions until your teens get used to the practice.
Sit on the floor or a comfortable chair, and place a candle on a surface in front of you at eye level. A taper candle is best, but any candle you have will be fine. Light the candle. Close your eyes for a few moments and breathe in and out naturally.
Open your eyes and gaze at the candle with full attention. If any thoughts arise, let them go and return your attention to the candle. Continue to breathe naturally. Blink only when you need to.
Now focus only on the flame of the candle, simply gazing without admiring it or thinking.
After a few moments, focus all your attention on the center of the candle.
Close your eyes. An image of the candle flame (and even the candle itself) will appear. Focus on the image of the flame, and direct the image to the point between your eyebrows. Breathe naturally and focus on keeping the flame image bright and steady, stationed at the point between your eyebrows.
Continue focusing until the flame image eventually goes out. Open your eyes, blow out the candle, and allow yourself time to sit quietly within the sense of focus and serenity the practice brings to you.
Another candle activity – for voice training
Teens seem to love candles, so here is another wonderful activity that helps mental focus, breath control and improves your singing voice!
Just as in the previous activity your teen will sit comfortably in front of a lit candle, but closer – about 15 to 18 inches away. You are now going to sing a note – but just an AAAAH sound. Ask the kids to take a deep breath in and repeat the note, singing toward the candle. However, the flame should not go out! In fact the goal is to move the flame as little as possible.
Practice together with various notes, just as AAAAH sounds. Your teen may even do quite well at this in a short time. Now, make it more challenging with singing an actual song. Start with “Happy Birthday to You.”
This activity comes from a voice training exercise, so your teen will really appreciate the side benefit of a stronger, clearer singing voice.
Humming of the Bees – a breath work and vocal exercise
Continuing the idea of finding, listening to and empowering our inner voice, the Bhramari exercise is a challenging and somewhat mystical yogic practice that seems almost designed for kids! You will again need to give directions verbally the first few practice sessions.
Sit comfortably (on the ground is best, cross legged or kneeling). Close both ear holes with your index fingers and close both eyes gently. Take a deep breath through your nose. Continue breathing in until no more air can fit in your lungs.
Now breathe out normally through the nose, mouth shut, while making a loud humming sound. Hum as loud as you can while breathing out. Continue the huming out breath until every last bit of air is out of the body.
Repeat the deep in breath and long, loud humming out breath, trying to be even louder this time.
Repeat a third time, inhaling deeply until you have no more capacity and exhaling with humming even louder.
Now sit quietly, keep your ears and eyes closed and breathing normally. Turn your attention inward as your breath settles back to a quiet, light pattern. Keep focused on listening internally. Quite soon, you will hear a sound like the roar of the ocean surf. The sound will seem to be flowing back and forth in wavs between your ears.
Don’t think about or label this sound. Just keep listening.
The sound may start to change. Allow it to be whatever it is and keep listening. Do nothing but listen.
Visualize the sound now as a tin band of bright light connecting the tips of your fingers between your ear holes. You may notice the sound becoming stronger again or changing.
Continue to simply listen as the sound fades away and the band of light become dimmer, and finally goes out. Open your eyes and stay seated for a few moments to be fully immersed in a sense of peace and joy before moving on with your day.
If your teen seems to enjoy these activities, encourage their interest by looking for books and magazine articles on mindfulness. Your teen may even want to share their practice with friends and classmates.