01 Aug 2018

DEVELOPING MINDFULNESS AND SELF-COMPASSION IN YOUNG ADOLESCENTS

How do we develop teens’ capacity to cope with school work? What can we do to help them find ways to overburdening burdens? How can we provide a safety net prior to the time where they can stand on their own? What can be done to help teens cope more effectively with the ongoing challenges of their day-to-day life?

Teenagers today face many challenges, often including intense expectations and pressures from their parents, teachers and friends. Sometimes, however, their harshest critics are not any of these other people, but themselves. Could self-compassion help?

Self-compassion as treating oneself with kindness and care rather than judgment, being mindful of one’s own painful feelings, and understanding one’s suffering as part of the common human condition. While many studies have found it to be associated with wellbeing in adults, few researchers have investigated if this is true for young people as well, self-critical teenagers can also benefit from a dose of self-compassion – and this might be especially true for teenage girls.

Adolescence is a time of change, growth and all too often, struggle.  Mindfulness teaches us to be present with difficult emotions, and self-compassion helps us to respond to these emotions with greater kindness and self-care.  Through developmentally appropriate activities and meditations, teens learn specific tools which help them navigate the emotional ups and downs of this life stage with greater ease.

When children grow up and become teens, they begin to encounter numerous challenges, ranging from cyberbullying to friendship difficulties. As a result, teens can sometimes become depressed. In the past we used self-esteem boosting mechanisms to tackle the usual teenage issues; performing well in school, dating and having safe sex. The present day approach, however, mostly uses techniques to encourage self-compassion. Self-compassion is made up of three different parts: common humanity, self-kindness and mindfulness. A combination of these three aspects is useful in fostering self-compassion, which can help teens when problems arise. Teens can also use their free time to read and reinforce their knowledge in various areas, such as love, administration, art and music.

Teens often experience loneliness when they are faced with the problems such as fitting in, getting on well with their family and tolerating their changing body. Self-compassion is crucial in reminding them that adolescence is a difficult period for everybody, and the challenges that come with it are entirely normal. This period of consistent change can be due to a number of events. This could be changing schools, friendship groups etc. These make the life of a teenager tough; the changes are hard for anybody. Self-compassion makes the teens understand that they are not the only ones going through challenges.

As with adults, teens may not tolerate the idea of self-compassion, fearing that they might become too kind to themselves. This implies that they will just laze around for the entire day without doing their class assignments, leading to failure. However, in reality, this has never been true. Research shows that anybody who is kind to themselves is motivated to get things done. The chances of them delaying taking action are minimal and are more likely to attempt new things. This is because they are not faced with the concerns of failure.

When teens are conscious of their surroundings, they will react less severely to whatever thoughts are running through their heads. They will view such thoughts as passing mental events rather than difficult facts. Mindfulness is a requirement to effectively practice self-compassion, as it enables you to identify the harsh thoughts when they appear and then be able to think in primarily kind ways. If one lacks these everyday mindfulness skills, it is harder to identify the times when self-compassion is required.

Adolescents learned to concentrate better and be more accepting of their present-moment experiences, as well as adopt an attitude of care for all human beings, including themselves. Research has shown that teens who are more self-compassion are less anxious, stressed, and depressed, and are protected against many of the negative consequences of low self-esteem, victimization, and traumatic events. Programs have therefore been designed to teach teens the tools of mindfulness and self-compassion. Over the course of these programs, teens learn that they are not alone in their struggles and don’t need to beat themselves up when they make mistakes.

Self-compassion and mindfulness increase while stress, anxiety, and depression decrease. Teens are more resilient, more satisfied with their lives, and experience more positive moods.

 

Articles by Blessing Bassey

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