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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Eight Principles of Teaching Mindfulness Meditation to Adolescents

photo courtesy Sam Himelstein

These principles are adapted from a longer version in A Mindfulness-Based Approach to Working with High-Risk Adolescents by Dr. Sam Himelsteinand are published here with permission from Routledge.

1. Clear Goals
The goal of one session might be to relax, while the goal of another session might be awareness of how emotions manifest in the body.

2. Non-Attachment to Logistics
Closed eyes aren’t necessary to practice “correctly,” and may be resisted because of intense trauma or because of mistrusting other group members.
3. Effective Techniques
Less abstract types of practices, such as counting the breath or body-based meditations, tend to work best when first introducing mindfulness techniques to adolescents. 
4. Time
Start with 2 to 5 minutes in the first session, then gradually increase meditation time according to what a particular group can handle. 
5. Facilitator’s Role
You should not spend every moment of the meditation talking. Your students need to be able to engage their own experience without you guiding them the whole time. 
6. Metaphors
It's important to use effective metaphors for the specific group of kids that you're teaching. I use a weight-training metaphor, since so many of the young men I teach like to work out.
7. Process the Experience
Kids need to be aware of whether the process was positive or negative, and whether it met their expectations. This is also a chance for you to learn what it is they are actually experiencing, which will help you teach more effectively.

8. Self-Disclosure
It is important for you to be willing to disclose your personal experience with mindfulness. This will deepen your relationship with your students and deepen their practice.