Be Calm, Be Kind, Be Safe: 3 Ways to Help Teens Thrive

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In the words of British Columbia's provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, now is the time to be calm, to be kind, and to be safe. 

While initially spoken with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, these words hold double meaning when it comes to supporting teens' well-being. This isn't an ordinary summer for young people, but there is much we can do as parents and educators to help them thrive. Taking Dr. Henry's words of wisdom to heart, Heart-Mind Online has created the following list of evidence-informed practices to nurture teens' resilience during these uncertain times. 

 

Tame Anxiety

Lead with Kindness

  • Practice Quiet Kindness: Encourage teens to do small, kind things for others, often[5], without the expectation of recognition or reward (and lead by example!). 
  • Focus on future happiness: Talk with teens about what they look forward to doing [6] alone, together, and with family or friends once the COVID-19 pandemic is over, and identify concrete ways you can support their vision in the here-and-now.
  • Get trauma-informed: Relate to teens in a trauma-informed way - it's an ultimate act of kindness as a parent or educator, as it can support them to grieve, heal, and thrive in their own time. 

Create Emotional Safety

  • Make it rain: Create intentionally imperfect moody raindrops art[7] with teens to explore their many moods. Display their artwork as a reminder that difficult feelings always pass–just like the rain.
  • Embrace change: Read "Tips for when 'normal' doesnt feel normal anymore," together and support teens to acknowledge their feelings, set realistic expectations for themselves, and create healthy boundaries. 
  • Learn the A-Z's of coping: Watch this catchy animated video together to explore 26 coping strategies for teens and discuss which ones they might try in the future. Be sure to provide the number for a youth help line in your area, as the one listed in the video is for the UK.
Select images from freepik.com

This science-based trick, called "anxious reappraisal" has been widely found to improve performance under stressful conditions. Since anxiety and excitement share similar body sensations, it works by tricking our brains into reinterpreting our fear of something bad happening (anxiety) as anticipation of something good (excitement). 

See a video clip of anxious reappraisal in action here

Talking about the future in this way supports teens to grieve what they are currently missing and helps them cultivate a sense of hope and optimism for what's in store once the pandemic ends. If possible, take tangible steps to plan for their post-pandemic aspirations: eg. research a dream trip together, help them find opportunities to make and save money, etc. 

Kindness is proven to boost well-being, and quiet kindness may be the most powerful form of all.

Quiet acts of kindness rely upon self-regulation and perspective-taking (the ability to put oneself in another's shoes). Examples for teens include: cleaning their room without asking, helping out around the house, refraining from conflict with parents or siblings, etc. 

Read more about quiet kindness and its many benefits in this article written by John-Tyler Binfet, a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of British Columbia. 

 

Try this beginner DIY tie-dye milk or this incredible colourful milk spiral. Note: neither are for drinking!

This mesmerizing close-up video of swirling ink, oil, soap, and glitter provides visual sensory input, which can help with self-regulation.

Learn the science behind sensory processing and self-regulation in this Heart-Mind Online resource

Watch this cute and quirky moody raindrops art tutorial with your teen and make your own!

Making art has profound therapeutic benefits such as reducing anxiety and boosting pro-social behavior, as discussed in this Heart-Mind Online resource

explain

  • Secure and Calm

    Secure and calm describes the ability to take part in daily activities and approach new situations without being overwhelmed with worries, sadness or anxiety. To be secure and calm also means being able to cope with stress and pressure, and to bounce back from difficulties.
  • Gets Along with Others

    Getting along with others is the ability to form positive and healthy relationships with peers and adults. Children with better abilities to regulate their emotions and behaviours have more friends and experience more positive playtime with their peers.
  • Alert and Engaged

    Being alert and engaged is the ability to manage and direct one's own feelings, thoughts and emotions. In general, the ability to be 'present' and to exercise self-control.
  • Compassionate and Kind

    Being compassionate and kind is closely related to empathy. While empathy refers more generally to the ability to take the perspective of and to feel the emotions of another person, compassion goes one step further.
  • Solves Problems Peacefully

    Managing conflict effectively is about creating an atmosphere where violence and aggression are not likely. To resolve conflict means using empathy, problem-solving skills, understanding other points of view and coming up with ways to make things right in a fair way.