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From packed schedules to constant access to screen time and social media, there’s no doubt that today’s “tweens” have plenty to do. To some extent, they can live in a constant state of distraction.

“Interacting with screens means less time to focus on ourselves and what’s going on in the world around us,” he says. Christopher Willard, psychologist, psychotherapist and author of “Growing Conscious.”

Willard adds that screens themselves aren’t the problem, but when kids overuse them, “they’re missing what they’re really feeling, or a beautiful day, or what the teacher is saying, or interacting with a peer.” in the hallway.”

Outside distractions aside, tween is a time when the brain naturally gets busier, says mindfulness educator glory pastor. “While during childhood they tend to be much more in the moment, as children get closer to pre-adolescence, their brains become more like adult brains and get more caught up in their minds,” says Shepard.

The good news: Mindfulness can help tweens cope with these changes and navigate their environment. “By teaching them to slow down, mindfulness helps children become more self-aware in a positive way, so that they are more self-aware rather than self-conscious, and able to think about their impact on others. people, as well as think through the decisions they’re making,” says Willard.

Here are some ways to help your tween put mindfulness into practice.

Without a doubt, adults are guilty of getting caught up in the same distractions as their children. Willard says the best way to teach mindfulness is to practice it yourself. “The more we can avoid being on our phones at dinner time, or stay present to our bodies breathing when we’re stressed, or show undivided attention to our children, the more they’ll model the same behavior,” he says.

Instead of telling them what not to do, Willard encourages them to be open and honest about what he wants them to do. “Instead of saying ‘Hang up your phone,’ say ‘Hey, I’m going to put my phone down. Let’s go out and do a scavenger hunt, or draw chalk on the sidewalk, or play in the park,’” she suggests.

Long exhalations activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming us down. Shepard recommends explaining to tweens that their brain naturally responds to their breathing, so breathing is actually a way to “hack” their brain!

For example, if he feels agitated, ask him to do a simple exercise: Exhale audibly 5 times in a row. Then ask them to notice how they feel. “Most feel a little calmer,” says Shepard. “They can go from a stress level of 7 on a scale of 1 to 10 to 5, whichever feels more manageable.”

Another method is to practice a counted breath structure: inhale for 4 counts, hold your breath for 4 counts, and then exhale for 4 counts. “The advantage of counted breathing is that it gives your mind something to do with counting, which can help you disengage from the lingering thoughts you’re stuck in by giving your mind a little work.”

Practicing breathing techniques can be done before homework, tests, or performances such as games and recitals.

Willard says another breathing tactic is to inhale through your nose as if you’re slowly sniffing a cup of hot chocolate, then exhale through your mouth as if you’re gently cooling it. “This is a way to teach kids to take deep breaths without calling it that,” he says.

Transition times before homework, dinner, or bedtime are great times to get in touch with the senses and escape busy thoughts, says Willard. He suggests asking your child to count how many sounds he notices in a minute or asking him to look out the window and point out the different shades of green he sees. Going outside to notice what they smell can also be effective.

Shepard says that body awareness can also be helpful. One effective practice she suggests is to tell your preteen to notice the sensation in the feet, then the legs, arms, and up through the rest of the body. As they get comfortable doing this, begin by asking them to squeeze their feet together as they inhale and then relax them as they exhale.

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Over time, they will learn to do this on their own when they need to without your prompting.

Stopping to think about the good things in life and learning to appreciate them is related to being mindful, says Willard.

A good time to practice gratitude is at dinner. Each person at the table can share a couple of things they are grateful for that happened during the day or a few people they are grateful to have in their lives. Another way to start the conversation is to ask your tween if anything fun or positive happened during the day or if they noticed anything beautiful or inspiring.

“Getting them to reflect at a young age develops that introspective, reflective quality that we want our kids to have as they get older, so they become more self-reflective and less impulsive,” says Willard.

Shepard works with many tweens who come to her because they are stressed or have difficulty concentrating. “Almost everyone thinks there’s something wrong with them,” he says. She finds that telling them a little about the brain and the changes it goes through during adolescence helps ease her worries.

“I explain that your brain is similar to your body during adolescence in that it grows a lot. I can say: ‘If you’re a runner and your times drop a little it’s because you’re getting used to your legs getting longer’. Same with the brain. You may go through a period where your brain is adjusting to the changes,’” he says.

Knowing that the changes are temporary helps most of her students feel less out of control, she adds.

The teen years can be overwhelming for kids. So many changes are happening both inside and out. “It’s a time when a lot of kids start to feel more stress and anxiety because their minds are busier and they have less of that sense of presence,” explains Shepard. But encouraging tweens and teens to practice mindfulness as they learn more about themselves and the world around them can make a difference.