Kids of all ages amaze me. Sometimes they seem wise beyond their years, teaching us adults a thing or two about life. But most often, they need our guidance and our unconditional love to help them make sense of the world and their belonging in it. We can take many steps to ensure their safety and happiness, but I think Ann Landers said it best when she wrote:
“It is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.”
While there are many lessons we are here to teach our children and they certainly learn much of what they need to know throughout their school years, I absolutely believe there is nothing more important than showing them how to get in touch with their innermost selves. This connection to self is where they will hear the guidance of their hearts, the secrets of their souls, and little by little know deep within that they are magnificent beings in this world.
I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to begin sharing aspects of my book The Practice with students at a high school in my area. In my conversations with these teens, what stands out most to me is that they are all seeking ways to be happy and to deal with what one teen called “the unbearable stress” that comes with being a teenager today. They are bombarded by technology and media messages suggesting that what they are looking for can be found in the newest gadget, other material items, or a coveted accomplishment. They feel that they don’t measure up or that they need to do this or that or even that the life they are leading won’t amount to anything. And, last, they feel scared and hopeless about many of the circumstances surrounding them today.
It’s a search we can all relate to…
I write about my struggles as a teen in the seventies, and although we certainly didn’t have the technology back then that we have today, I know very personally how it feels to be stressed out, unhappy, and wanting to feel smart enough or good enough to fit in. What teenager hasn’t felt this way at some point in their lives? It probably comes with the territory. But what I have discovered since my teenage years in my search for happiness, security, and meaning is that there are tools children of any age can use to access their inner strength and feel accepted by the most important person in their lives: themselves. This will make an extraordinary difference in everything they do.
Using the tools…
Meditation, focused attention, mantra repetition, and reflection are the tools I teach in my workshops and in my book The Practice. An overview of each of these tools is available on my website, and in-depth discussions can be found in my book. These tools are easy to understand and implement, but I work to further simplify them with teens. For instance, I explain mantra repetition as turning to a Focus Phrase first thing in the morning for one minute to start the day and then using it throughout the day during stressful times to reconnect to their inner source of peace, confidence, and courage.
I am so happy to say that kids are really open to these ideas. In my talks, they’ve expressed genuine eagerness to try my suggestion: “Wake up, leave the cell phone for one minute, close your eyes, and focus your attention on your breath. Let the thoughts in your mind come and go and just breathe, connecting to your heart, your soul, your quiet within.”
Kids are just like us—they truly want to feel happy and know they really are okay. I believe that sharing your meditation practice with your children—even just a few minutes a day—and teaching them to connect within will provide a solid foundation from which they can step into the lives they came here to live.
Our kids know how to solve math problems, they’ve experienced the fun and mysteries of reading, and they understand the usefulness of knowing a second language. But, most important, they also must know who they are. They can only discover this with a consistent practice of “checking in with themselves.” Once they have the tools, they can tap into their never-ending source of inspiration, intuition, self-love, self-confidence, and support whenever they need or want to.
I would love to hear your insights on helping our teens live their best life!