I Finally Learned To Meditate, And It's Been So Good For Me and My Tween

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Dingzeyu Li/Unsplash

I’ve been meditating for over a year now, after extensive prompting from my therapist. I knew that meditation was beneficial, but I still resisted. I felt like I couldn’t get in the mood (the chill mood, that is), I was easily distracted, and I just couldn’t get it right. I had this mental image of someone blissfully sitting criss-cross in a field of flowers, eyes closed, a gentle breeze, and the occasional fluttering butterfly, meditating while looking like a model. Instead, I was on my bedroom floor wearing mismatched pjs, my mind going one thousand miles a minute, feeling like I had to pee. Or maybe the peeing part was just an excuse to get out of meditating for twenty solid minutes. The reality is, I had a serious case of stresslaxing.

My journey to consistently meditating hasn’t been easy. I had to learn that it’s perfectly OK to only meditate five or ten minutes, that a wandering mind is a normal mind, and that there is no perfect way to get my zen on. I was so hard on myself, demanding I focus and chastising myself when my mind predictably wandered to what we would make for dinner the next day or an e-mail I forgot to send. Why I demand so much more of myself than I ask my children, including my tweens, to expect of themselves is beyond me. It wasn’t until I learned to give myself a lot of grace and when I opted to start meditating with my tween, that some of the benefits of meditation finally clicked.

Let’s be real. Raising tweens is so difficult. No one prepares us for raising a child who is a little kid one minute and then thinks they’re grown the next. Tweens can be so insightful, funny, and kind, yet in the same hour, they can throw a tantrum rivaling that of a toddler. I’m going to blame hormones, societal pressures, and the childhood season of in-between. Tweenhood is hard on parents and kids alike.

I’ve found that the more I listen and the less I talk, the better off my relationship is with my tweens. Yes, I have two right now, with two more coming up behind them. My tweens are trying to figure out who they are, and wow, do they have opinions. They also have questions: some quite deep (like what shade of brown was Jesus?) and some downright random and factual (where exactly is Finland?). Rarely do they want our lectures or our opinions, because after all, we are completely clueless adults who have no idea what it’s like to be them. Yet we know that our tweens need our guidance, support, and encouragement.

What I’ve noticed and learned is that tweens are more stressed out than ever before. Perhaps you’ve noticed this, too. When I was a tween, I was pissed at my mom for not letting me date when I was in sixth grade and my biggest transgression was sneaking hot pink lipstick school to apply in the bathroom. Truly, I’m thankful there were no cell phones and social media back then. There wasn’t even internet. Rumors happened by word of mouth—which was bad enough. Now tweens have terrifyingly high rates of suicide, self-harm, anxiety, and depression.

Mindfulness and parental awareness can help combat the pressures tweens face. I want my tween to understand that self-care including therapy, a good night’s sleep, and meditation are important habits to practice now. If meditation could help me, easing my mind, helping me sleep better, and developing mantras to carry me through tough times, why shouldn’t I teach that skill to my children?

It dawned on me one night that maybe my tween and I should meditate. What better way to prepare for bed than to calm our minds and bodies—together? What if I could teach her now, as a kid, the importance of self-care and mindfulness, by practicing what I preach? After all, lectures are hardly the best teaching tool, nor do they help the parent-child bond.

I expected that my tween would perhaps find my suggestion to meditate weird or annoying, but she latched right on to the idea. I grabbed my phone and offered to find a five minute meditation to start. We got cozy, laying side by side in her bed, and listened to the voice of a lovely woman soothe our minds. We started with a guided body relaxation, calming each body area one by one. When we were finished, my tween asked to go right to sleep. Wowzers. Why didn’t I try this before now?

What I’ve found through our meditation sessions is that they don’t need to be long in order to be effective. Furthermore, sometimes my talkative tween isn’t in the mood to chat. It’s enough that I’m just laying next to her, sharing in an activity, one that takes all of the pressures of the day and silences them for a bit.

According to the Mayo Clinic, meditation can be immensely beneficial to anyone who practices. Some benefits include “gaining a new perspective on stressful situations,” “increasing self-awareness,” “focusing on the present,” “increasing imagination and creativity,” and “reducing negative emotions.” I don’t know about you, but these are helpful for me and my tween. They also share that another benefit is ”increasing patience and tolerance.” Ahem, don’t all parents need that? Ditto for the tweens.

Before or after a meditation session, we sometimes chat about what’s going on in her life—but not always. The beauty of meditation is that there’s not a wrong way to do it. The practice is fluid and can be manipulated in ways that it best fits those of us who are partaking in it. When I get into the zone with my kiddo, I find my tendencies to tell her what’s up begin to melt away, and I then better listen and converse with her. She, in turn, is calmer in her responses.

I never imagined that choosing to learn how to meditate would turn into a bonding experience for me and my child. However, I’m very thankful that this mindfulness practice is something we get to together. It’s free, it’s easy, and it has loads of benefits for both of us.