January 15, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Mindful Activities for Stressed Out Tweens

We live in a world where many personal identities are questioned on a daily basis. By nature, tweens are already navigating the waters of self-discovery, teetering between individuality and blending in. With these developmental changes happening inside, the outside world isn’t helping. Our current social environment may make budding teenagers feel even more out of place or unwelcome. All of this inner turmoil can manifest as rebellion or depression.

Librarians are already doing their part by posting “All Welcome Here” posters, presenting educational programs that offer insight into different cultures, and providing safe, bully-free environments, but it’s also important to focus on some internal housekeeping with some of our most impressionable members. The following activities have proven sucessful with tweens in my library and community.

ZentanglesZentangle design

Zentangles is meditation through doodling. It was much bigger a few years ago, but it’s still a great concept to teach kids. You don’t even have to call it Zentangles if you don’t want to, but the name might intrigue younger teens who weren’t around for the initial craze. It helps kids find a creative outlet and confidence. Maybe they didn’t consider themselves great artists or avoided art because they never knew what to draw. Zentangles can remove the pressure of a completed image and set children’s creativity, and their minds, free.

Yoga

Yoga is more than stretching the body; it is also about reflection on thoughts and modifying breathing to cope with stress. Earlier this summer, our library hosted an “Empowerment Through Yoga” workshop. It focused on positive self-thinking while stretching the body. We started by sharing what stresses us out and what we do to help get through it. During the stretches, kids were encouraged to think about the good things in their life and to manage stress through their breathing. The workshop concluded with a meditation jar craft. The kids expressed themselves through art with a guided craft that wasn’t intimidating or complicated. Even if they didn’t use it for meditation going forward, the jar would still serve as a reminder to take a step back and remember to be happy about who they are.

Journaling

My coworkers and I were just talking about how overly and embarrassingly dramatic our old journals are. I still cringe thinking about mine, but it was a great way to unload all the thoughts in my head as I was growing up. I wrote in it only once a month at most, but I always felt more collected and sure of myself after I did. My journal should be shredded and burned so no one can witness my shame, and you can let kids today know they don’t have to keep their written thoughts for long if they don’t want to. The practice of freewriting itself is therapeutic enough to be a beneficial skill for kids.

Guided walks

Get them outside! This may be initially a harder sell to kids. Aimless walking might not be their cup of tea, but adding an additional motive should make this mission a lot easier to complete. Middle schoolers are old enough to take advantage of off-site opportunities. As with outreach services, you don’t need to be in the physical building to get the library’s name out there into the community. Studies show that being in nature is good for mental health and provides a calming experience. You can partner with a local forest preserve or parks department and strengthen community relationships at the same time. I personally love the concept of the walking classroom, but if that won’t work for your library’s needs, you can disguise this walk with other activities such as nature identification, geocaching, stargazing, or even ghost hunts.

We all strive to make the library a safe and welcome place for our tween visitors. We try to offer programming and books that not only provide a mental escape but that can be educational as well. With the new year and its inevitable resolutions for a fresh start fast approaching, we can use this time to help the tweens in our communities refresh their personal opinions of themselves and start off the year in a positive way.

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Christina Keasler About Christina Keasler

Christina is currently the middle school librarian at Glen Ellyn Public Library, IL. She's responsible for the middle school collection and programming and serves as the youth department’s 3D printing and technology expert.

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Comments

  1. Christina Kessler’s suggestions of “Mindful Activities for stressed out tweens” are reasonable, but there is no mention of the library’s number one feature: Books for self-selected reading. The quality of young people’s literature has never been higher, and many authors deal with just those issues that cause stress among young readers. Non-fiction will help give tweens at least some of the information they need to deal with their problems, and fiction allows readers to see and explore different possibilities for actually solving their problems. Also, self-selected reading can help a great deal if schoolwork contributes to stress: Those who read more read better, have larger vocabularies, write better, and spell better. They also know more about a wide variety of subjects, including science, literature, history and even “practical matters.”
    Victor Nell’s research (Lost in a Book, Yale University Press, 1988) shows that pleasure reading can help you at least temporarily forget your problems and relax a little, which is why so many people read in bed before they go to sleep. One of Nell’s subjects told him that “reading removes me from the irritations of living …(while reading) I escape from the cares of those around me, as well as escaping from my own cares and dissatisfactions” (Nell, 1988, p, 240).

    original article: http://www.slj.com/2017/12/industry-news/mindful-activities-stressed-tweens/

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