Preadolescence is a time of remarkable brain growth – neurons are firing and wiring during a child’s pre-teen years at a rate matched only at the time just before birth. This fact presents an opportunity for those of us who spend time with these fascinating creatures. First, what a tween is exposed to has a great impact. This might explain why so many of us have middle school experiences – good and bad – seared into our brains. Second, we as parents and educators have a great opportunity to instill important values and life skills into the pre-teen brain. Mindfulness – the ability to pay attention to present moment experience, and react in a measured and thoughtful way – is a great value and skill to teach your middle schooler, and according to the brain science, middle school might be the very best time to expose your child to mindfulness.
Try the following tips to get your middle schooler to take an interest in mindfulness:
1. Explain the science behind stress – Middle school is stressful even for the most mellow child, with so many changes are going on internally and externally. This is a great time to introduce the idea of stress management to your child. Begin by explaining the basic science behind the nervous system. Encourage your child to take time every day to take part in a stress relieving, health-promoting activity. It only takes a few minutes to focus on the breath or practice some simple yoga.
2. Push the social benefits – Okay, so your tween may roll their eyes at you when you talk about stress management, but you will surely get their attention when you mention the social benefits of being “chill.” Print out our work sheet entitled “mindfulness can make you popular” to get some ideas to show your teen that being present and mindful will help their social life.
3. Get your school involved – If you are an educator check out our worksheet on ways to incorporate mindfulness in the classroom. Get your school involved by have conversations about programs like MindUP, and the Holistic Life Foundation.
4. Model mindfulness – Lead by example by taking time out in your own day to reset your nervous system. The entire family benefits when parents take time out for small doses of mindfulness.
For more articles and worksheets on mindfulness and teens, type in ‘teens’ in our search button at the top of the page.
Listen to a recent This American Life Broadcast all about middle school.
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A couple of great books about life in middle school and beyon
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