For National Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, we asked one of our teachers, Samantha Kinkaid, to answer some questions for us about mental health in children and teens. Samantha Kinkaid, MA, C-IAYT, is a community psychologist and certified yoga therapist. She has worked in somatic and mindfulness-based therapies with traumatized and high-risk populations for over 15 years and has developed successful programs for inner-city high-risk teens, youth with autism, social and sensory challenges, and individuals of all ages who have experienced trauma.
1. Most kids have been teased by a sibling or a friend at some point. What is a good indicator that teasing has become more than just teasing?
The best way to know if teasing has become bullying is by how you feel. Teasing is often done in a joking manner between friends and siblings to get a reaction, often wanting teasing in return. Most of the time, you feel a sense of fun and excitement. However, sometimes teasing can get a little annoying. If you feel annoyed, this is a good opportunity to say that you’d rather not be teased right now. With bullying, the intention is often to hurt and upset you. Do you feel hurt and upset? Bullying is also repeated frequently. Is it happening every week? Every day? Remember bullying can happen in person, over the phone, and online. Bullying causes emotional, mental, and sometimes physical wounds. If you are feeling upset and hurt from bullying, you need to talk to a trusted adult.
2. Do you work with a lot of kids in your meditation practice?
Yes, the majority of individuals and groups I work with are kids, tweens and teens, in the United States and also in other parts of the world.
If so, what are you seeing as their biggest sources of anxiety? Anger?
Many have been traumatized by abuse which include being trafficked, exposed to violence, and being bullied. Stressful or unstable home environments to high pressure academic or athletic goals often increase anxiety and sometimes anger.
3. How can meditation help kids deal with both? How can meditation help kids deal with bullies?
Anxiety from abuse and high stress can lead to complex emotional, mental, and physical responses. Meditation can help you calm down – even in very stressful moments – and recognize, first, what is going on and how you are feeling. Meditation can support you in building confidence and self esteem as you learn to say no, stop, walk away, and/or get help from a trusted adult. Meditation can help you feel better about yourself. Remember: being bullied is not your fault.
4. How has the rise of social media and technology impacted mental health in teens and younger children?
Yes. This is a very important question! There have now been many research studies showing social media and technology can increase anxiety, depression, as well as suicidal thoughts when the time on the device (smart phone, tablet, computer, or gaming device) is over two hours a day. With this amount of time, there is often greatly reduced physical activity, a loss of necessary social contact with family and friends, and in some cases a loss of sleep. Please know, social media and technology aren’t “bad” – they can help us share fun and important moments with people we care about, as well as be a valuable tool that supports us in our goals at school and in life. Kids, tweens, and teens need a balance in all things to support health and well-being. You need a balanced amount of sleep, exercise, healthy food, and positive interactions with family and friends to help you feel good and do your best.
5. Any advice to get children/teens into meditation and mindfulness?
They are many ways you can start to practice meditation and mindfulness. You can practice with an app like Simple Habit. You can practice by relaxing your body, resting comfortably and counting your breath. Even three deep breaths focused on relaxation during each exhale is a start! You can talk to your teacher at school about introducing mindfulness in the classroom. You can ask your parent if there is a meditation center close to where you live or maybe your whole family can get started together with a private teacher. Any way you can start to slow down, relax, and pay attention (when you’re walking, clearing your plate after dinner, brushing your teeth, as well as to how long you’ve been on a tech device, etc.) will help introduce some of the basic elements of mindfulness at home.
Challenges like anxiety, fear, anger and stress need to be normalized. It might feel like something is wrong with you when you experience strong emotions, since they are often perceived to be negative. However, they are normal feelings and normal responses to certain situations. The majority of the time troubling feelings and thoughts can be resolved by finding healthy ways to welcome the emotion and develop better coping strategies, including meditation and mindfulness.
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