As we are now beginning to learn, lockdown can be a stressful time, there's a lot to think about and we are all dealing with our own worries surrounding the virus. After all, this is a once in a generation occurrence, so no wonder it is taking a little bit of time to adjust! Throw in a hefty dose of hormones, missing your mates, exam pressure and now basically being grounded, and you've got a recipe for one stressed-out teen. That is not to say that some teenagers aren't taking this in their stride, however, if you have teenage kids who aren't coping so well, this is a great time to help them find some strategies to help. If you aren't familiar with practising mindfulness then the following tips can be easily applied for yourself too! Headspace describes mindfulness as 'the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment' so what better time to embrace some calm, and zone in on some zen with your teenager with these mindfulness exercises.
Being aware of your breath is a key way to bring a swift sense of calm, and distance yourself from anxious feelings, so you are able to look at a situation objectively rather than act quickly as a reaction to stress. A simple breathing exercise to start with is just to take an 'exaggerated breath', inhale deeply through your nostrils for 3 seconds, hold for 2 seconds, then exhale slowly through your mouth for 4 seconds. Try to observe each breath and really focus on the rise and fall of your chest and how it feels to breathe deeply. You can do this for as long as you like, throughout the day, or try to set aside some time once a day to just sit and breath like this, if your mind wanders that's natural but once you notice, just gently bring your attention back to your breath. This is an excellent technique for everyone to learn, but teaching mindful breathing to your kids from a young age will really help moving forward with increased concentration, and the ability to find calm when they experience stressful situations or intense emotions. Take a look at this article for full instructions.
In line with the technique above, here is a video that makes that even easier, and would be a great place to start with your teen. It is simply a calming shape, as it grows you breath in, and as it shrinks back down you exhale, the video is ten minutes long, which is a perfect amount of time to practise mindful breathing. However with mindfulness, even a small amount is better than nothing at all so even just a minute or two to focus solely on your breath in time to this shape, will help to reinstate calm.
10 Mindful Minutes
In this great video from the geniuses at TED, mindfulness expert Andy Puddicombe explains the huge benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices and how to fit it all into everyday life. This would be a great Ted Talk to watch with your teen to introduce mindful exercise and show them a first-hand account of how beneficial it can be.
Mindfulness is super popular at the moment, as are podcasts so it is no surprise that there are a lot out there covering this topic! Podcasts, in general, are a great way to take some time out and relax, here are some with a focus on mindfulness that you could listen to with your teen, or recommend to them.
Happy Place- Fearne Cotton shares advice from experts on how to work through feeling low to finding the joy every day, as well as sharing her own experiences with mindfulness. Through a series of interviews with lots of inspiring guests, Fearne explores how you can find your own 'happy place'.
Gurls Talk - Don't be put off by the name! This podcast is perfect for all genders, Adwoa Aboah invites different guests from all walks of life to come and chat about what helped shape them into who they are today. A must-listen for today's teens!
Finding your Flow- This is a brand new podcast, hosted by Aleah Aberdeen and Billie-Jean Blackett, they have created a 'safe, honest space aimed to calm emotions and strengthen mindsets when dealing with your ups and downs in life'. Perfect for teenagers trying to figure it all out, with a healthy dose of all things zen.
Headspace is perhaps the most well-known app out there promoting mindfulness and guided mediation, and for good reason! At Headspace, they believe that meditation is the training ground for mindfulness, that meditation helps you to focus on the present moment for a set amount of time, and mindfulness is when you can bring yourself back to that place throughout the day. Headspace is available on iOS and Android.
Buddhify is a cool and user-friendly app with a slightly different approach, they are all about fitting meditation into your day, rather than committing to a set amount of time every day to build the habit. You can pick and choose from hundreds of meditations and other mindful activities, depending on what you feel like at the time. Buddhify also has a kids section included on the app, so if you have a young teen this could be a good place to start and they can work their way through. This app is available on iOS and Android.
Aura is a super modern, AI-enhanced, science-backed meditation and mindfulness app. Their meditations range from just 3 minutes up to an hour, so great for teens who might not have the best attention span! You can rate your experience as you go along, which helps the app personalise your experience. Aura is available for iOS and Android.
It might be slightly ironic after talking about podcasts and meditation apps to now suggest putting the tech away, but this really is an excellent way to reconfigure the mind after it's been buzzing with info all day long. Let's be real, with Snapchat, Tik Tok, Instagram and whatever the next big thing is, teens LIVE inside their phones! A digital detox is an excellent activity to do as a family, otherwise, this could easily seem like a punishment. Your teenager could be feeling extra attached to their devices at the moment as their only window to their social lives; even just an hour or two a day will make a huge difference. The best time is an hour before bed and then not until the morning but that may be a long shot! Take a look at this post for some great advice on how to switch off as a team, and some of the amazing benefits.
Using affirmations is a great way to encourage your teenager to be kind to themselves, and to boost self-confidence which can often suffer throughout the teenage years. Positive affirmations are simply positive thoughts and statements that we repeatedly tell ourselves in order to create a habit of positive thinking. Using affirmations is using the power of positive thought- they work to create that powerful good energy that can lead to positive outcomes- much like manifesting. Affirmations seem to work best at the beginning and end of each day, in the morning to set yourself up for a positive day, and before bed to end the day on a good note. For some inspiration and ideas check out this post.
Visualisation is similar to daydreaming, it is accomplished through the use of your imagination. Quite simply it is training your mind to allow you to leave a stressful situation by picturing yourself somewhere else! Depending on how lockdown is going in your household, it might be time for everyone to decide on their own personal happy place and really embrace this technique! But on a serious note, visualisation is an amazing mindfulness tool, and a great way to gently bring your thoughts away from worries and panic, take a moment to focus on your breathing and imagine a tranquil setting. This will send a message to your brain to calm down too- the more you practise the more efficient this tactic becomes! For more tips on visualisation take a look here.
Body Scan Meditation
This is an easy daily mindfulness tool to learn together. Research has shown that one of the primary benefits of this type of meditation is stress relief, great news. A lot of people are reporting changes to their sleep patterns at the moment, as a result of routines being totally thrown off- and teens especially like to stay up until the early hours! So this is a good way to make sure the sleep they DO get, is high quality, encourage them to practise a body scan meditation before they drop off- but after they've put their phone down for the night- it should be the very last thing they do. Here is how; simply lay or sit comfortably and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths and bring your awareness to your feet, and move your way up scanning your whole body, really feeling every muscle and even wiggling your fingers as you go along to bring your awareness to each body part. As you work your way up, observe any tensions and visualise them leaving your body. Remember to breathe deeply as you go along, and when you reach the top of your head, imagine all the tension disappearing.
This is another amazing way to practise mindfulness, focusing on your breathing and experiencing the moment are all part of yoga and it is a great way to spend a relaxing time with your kids. If you are beginners you can grow your practise together. Over the next few weeks of lockdown you could incorporate this into your daily routine, a great place to start is with Yoga with Adrienne. There are a huge variety of videos to choose from including this one, which is tailored especially for teens, they also have loads of different videos for all different abilities.
When things are feeling a little crazy, 'grounding' is a practise taught by therapists, often for dealing with anxiety but no matter what you are feeling, this mindfulness technique will help bring you back into the present moment. Take a look at this page to read about a few different grounding techniques, one that we really like is called the 5-4-3-2-1 technique. This technique helps you to hone in on your surroundings, so to start you can take some deep breathes (in through your nose, count to 3, out through your mouth to the count of 3), then you simply list- 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and finally 1 thing you can taste. This simple technique can help with anxious energy by literally grounding and calming it so that stress can be released and you can focus again, in the here and now.
Now more than ever, it feels really important to take note of what we are thankful for, and keeping a gratitude journal is a wonderful way for teenagers and/or the whole family, to appreciate how lucky we are. Sometimes it is hard to feel positive, it is natural to feel a little low after watching the news or reading another statistic online- but every day does have its good moments, and taking time to reflect and jot them down will reset your perspective. This is not just for lockdown, it is a great habit to get into and being appreciative can help draw more good things into your life! Making a gratitude journal together could also be a fun lockdown activity, and reflecting on the things you are grateful for together will allow you to pay attention to what means the most to each of you. Here are some great tips to help you get started with making your own journal.
Give Yourself a Hug
In this time of social distancing, this one is more important than ever! When we are hugged by someone we love, our bodies produce dopamine and oxytocin which are major feel-good hormones and something we could all do with producing more of at the moment! So amazingly, your neurons don't actually know it's you, so when you give yourself a big squeeze they activate and spark off this amazing chemical reaction, making us feel safe and cared for.
In times like these, it is more important than ever to make the most of simply getting outdoors, or if that is not an option, bring the fresh air to you by throwing open the windows for a little while every day and just breath it in. If your teen is spending a lot of time indoors, either studying or just keeping to themselves, it is really important to make sure they are getting a daily dose of vitamin D and a chance to refresh. This is one of the most simple mindfulness practises you can do and can help a lot with mental health.
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