Mid-September is the time when we start to roll into our new set of routines. Back-to-school nights are wrapping up, homework begins to pile on and fall sports are in full swing. With many subtle changes around us, it is easy to just go into autopilot mode.
Sometimes it is just easy to go through the motions to check off all our boxes on our to-do lists. But what are we missing when we don’t take the time to be fully present?
In DBT, we work on the “what skills” which help teens observe, describe and participate in the moment.
When we stop to observe we watch our thoughts as if they were on a conveyor belt. We start to notice our thoughts and feelings and allow them to come and go without judgement. Not only do we observe our inner experiences but also take in our surroundings using our five senses.
We then describe this experience. This helps our teens put their experiences into words. As parents, we can model this by labeling our own experiences when talking to our teen. Try starting a conversation by saying, “I feel calm”, or “I feel my heart beating fast”. This can help your teen also label their own experiences and feel more comfortable with this process.
The last “what skill” is participating. Our teens are encouraged to actively participate in whatever they may be experiencing. This is the time when we ask our teens to dive in and practice within group so they can begin to apply this skill in their lives.
Applying these skills takes practice. It is hard to shift our minds from thinking about the future to being in the moment. Our teens are not immune to feeling like they are on autopilot too. From completing college apps, to learning how to drive, our teens are feeling stressed all while trying to balance their day to day.
By slowing down and practicing the what skills in mindfulness, our teens can start to recognize their thoughts and feelings in the moment. And in turn, this helps our teens gain a better sense of self and greater self-awareness.