Mindfulness Forum a Bit Disappointing
October 28, 2016
As the sun was setting on Tuesday evening, parents hurriedly walked up the steps of the media center. Ironically, they seemed worried and stressed they would be late for a lecture on mindfulness. SDA hosted this parent forum featuring guest speakers from UCSD’s Center for Mindfulness, who gave a lecture about the benefits of mindfulness for stressed teens and their parents.
To my surprise, the vast majority of the audience were adults, with few students interspersed. Before the presentation began, P.E. teacher Robin Etheridge took the stage and led the audience through a calming breathing exercise. Then, then UCSD’s Lorraine Hobbs began her presentation.
Unfortunately for the teens and preteens, this presentation was undoubtedly catered towards the adults in the room. As expected, the audience was inundated with information and facts not only about mindfulness, but about the anatomy of the teenage brain and our infamous hormones. The parents seemed to be appreciative of the information.
However, as a teenager in the room, the approach taken felt like a visit to the doctors where parents were diagnosed with having an “angsty and hormonal teenager” and were given an opportunity to learn about how to deal with their condition (or child).
The lecture failed to address the challenges teens face with any sort of sympathy. Instead it took on a “poor parents” mentality. I’m not questioning the challenges of parenthood. However, if the lecture is supposed to be about aiding teens through tough times through practices such as meditation, it doesn’t help to depersonalize and demoralize them. Furthermore, the chosen approach polarized parents and teens, when both should work together to understand each other’s challenges. Parents should be encouraged to take on a supporting and nurturing role in times of adolescent hardship.
Part way through the lecture, the students were dismissed and taken into the flex lab. In some ways, I felt like I was at a family reunion of complete strangers, where I was sent off to the kids table. There, the students, who were between fifth and 11th grade, gathered for what seemed like a multi-age Community Day session. We spoke about our causes of stress, how it manifests and how we manage it (or don’t manage it). Surprisingly, despite the age gaps, we all seemed to be facing similar difficulties.
After 20 minutes of circle time, we returned to the media center as the parents finished their session. Coming out of the family forum that night, I felt like my struggles were somewhat burdensome to my parents, even though I know this isn’t the case. Instead of feeling more calmed by the mindfulness presentation, my stress levels escalated from what had the potential to create an understanding and healthy dialogue about stress between teens and their parents.