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Carrie Soukup offers meditative ways to calm your tween and build mental skills that help achieve emotional peace.

Is your middle-schooler riding the emotional roller coaster? Excitement one moment, tragedy the next? Lingering anxiety? 

What an opportunity! Not only can you help your children through this difficult moment of today, you can (and are) teaching life skills now to help them thrive through adulthood! I know it doesn’t always feel so exciting to have a moody middle schooler but when I look back on my own experiences with my parents, I see how their timely lessons equipped me. 

When I was a tween, I used to get strep throat quite often. It hurt like crazy.  

Strangely enough, I remember it with affection because both of my parents were so caring in the midst of it. My mom would tell me that she wished she could take away my pain – that she herself would rather suffer it. My father would let me know that my pain could become a prayer if I would offer it up to God. 

A dozen times or so, I remember my dad would sit next to me calmly while I lay on the couch writhing in pain and working through tears. He would teach me the tricks that he learned from a dentist in California who had tried to help his patients with dental phobias. They were tricks to manage pain.  

And now as a 45-year-old, I continue to practice the mindset lessons that my parents taught me. It is not so much physical pain that I manage, but rather the emotional and stressful ups and downs. 

I teach my own middle-school daughter about these meditative practices plus a few more mindset exercises I’d added to my bag of tricks. I do it because I want my daughter to be able to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). I want her to know she can influence how she feels about things. That she can think in such a way that her feelings gain freedom from the hijacking by the brain’s fear inducing amygdala. I want her to always find a home in trusting God.


girl sitting at table surrounded by schoolbooks 

Do you want that for your kids too?

Try these exercises with your tween. They build the skill of peace -- rather than the skill of worry. But just like developing baseball skills takes practice -- so does developing a mind conformed to Christ. While many of these things can help someone to feel significantly better right away, they are best considered as exercises to train your mindset.  


Warm Up

Doing a warmup activity can help us slow down and gain control of our thoughts and unite them to our bodies. You can do this warm-up before any of the following activities. 

Imagine that you are very very light -- so light that you can float on the clouds. Imagine the feeling of rising up like a helium balloon. So high you are in the clouds. Now suddenly you become very very heavy. Feel the experience of falling and being so heavy that your arms and legs fall to your side and are relaxed. Now become light again and float. Switch as often as you like until you are relaxed and ready to move into meditation.


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Physical Pain that you Don’t Need

Pain is very helpful - it tells us to take our hand off of a stove so we don’t burn our skin.  It brings us to the sidelines so we don’t further injure an ankle.  It gathers as stress around our brows so we will take a break and rest.  But sometimes we already know and heed the message that pain is telling us and yet it continues.  In that instance, you can turn off the pain.   

Imagine that you are walking into the control room of your mind and you see a switch on the wall. Walk over to it. You can see that it says ____ pain. (label it whatever kind of pain you are experiencing – like… throat pain). Right now it is switched on. What does the switch look like? Is it bright red? Ok. Do you need that pain for this moment? For this hour? If you don’t then think of a word that you are going to say when you switch off that pain. Maybe you’ll say, “enough”. Now, on the count of three, put your my finger on that switch and flip it off as you say, “enough”. Ok. 1, 2, 3. “enough”. Look around the control room. Notice that your guardian angel is there with you. If for some reason, you need the pain, your angel can let you know. For now, be at peace.


Perspective on Troubles

Are you stressed about something specific? A friendship, a test, lots of work? Imagine yourself in the situation that you are stressed about. Now, look at this situation as if you were a surveillance camera in the upper corner of the room. Now go higher and see the situation from the 15 feet above. Imagine it all again as you go even higher. You are on the top of a super tall tree or a sky scraper looking down at the situation. You can see everything but you are very high up. A couple of loved ones come to join you way up high. Who is it? Your parents? Your pets? Jesus? Your cousin? Talk together for a bit.

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Releasing Tension from the Body

Lie on your back with your hands on your tummy. Perhaps at bedtime. Feel the rhythm of your breath. Over the next few minutes you are going to tighten and then relax every muscle of your body. Start with your toes. Ready? Tighten them. Scrunch them up. Hold it for 10 seconds. Ok. Release it. Good. Do it again. Same place. Ready? Go! 4, 3, 2, 1 … relax. Next your calves, then your thighs … eventually on up to your face. Last, tighten everything at the same time. Good- really, really tight! Ok, rest. Now you can relax for the whole night.

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Just like developing baseball skills takes practice, so does developing a mind conformed to Christ. #catholicmom

It seems pretty easy in our society to develop habits of anxiety. But of course, you and I know that Jesus tells us that we do not need to worry. In fact, He actually commands us do not worry. He backs that up by laying down His own life for us so that we do not need to worry. And so, I hope you find these exercises helpful in trying to walk that path of peace with your middle-schooler.

I’d love to know what else you do to help your own kids through the tween years. Any best practices to offer?

Copyright 2021 Carrie Soukup
Images (from top): Pexels (2018); Pixabay (2014); Pixabay (2017);