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How to Understand Teenagers: Thoughts from a Yoga in the Schools Secondary Instructor

Written by Lori Schulte Trenkamp, Yoga in the Schools Instructor

Cascade High Schoolers with their "Moody Cow Jars"

"Many of these kids simply need to feel heard and seen and be given reasonable and relatable tools in order for them to be a success."

You mean you actually like teenagers???

This is the typical response I get when I tell people that I teach Yoga in the Schools at the secondary level (middle and high schoolers).

I have taught yoga to adults, to very young children, and every age in between, but the group that I most enjoy is the usually dreaded teenagers.

Why, you ask? Well, we’ll get to that soon.

When I first heard about the opportunity to be a Challenge to Change yoga teacher, I wasn’t aware that there were two different teams for the elementary and secondary age groups.

In hindsight, I should have known that every level would receive different instruction since our curriculums are so well thought out and expertly written - of course developmental differences require different methods and movements of teaching.

When they asked which level I preferred to teach during my interview, it took me a moment to answer.

Let’s face it, who doesn’t want to be a part of teaching twenty first graders how to do a cute yoga pose?

Their innocence and openness to learning new things is so precious!

Ultimately, though, I knew that the age I connect best with is the teenage group that most others complain about on the daily.

I just don’t see them as the burden that many others do.

Teens and preteens are searching day in and day out for the exact intricacies of who they will be and what place they'll occupy in the world.

I think watching this evolution is one of the most beautiful parts of life.

Prior to this age, they are mostly just following whatever their parents or other authority figures tell them.

They believe what those they respect believe and value what those they care for value.

As they make their way into adolescence, they start to realize they have a mind of their own.

And they are meant to use this mind to figure out what they believe and value, independently of everyone around them.

Some find this to be an exasperating part of this time in life, but I'm all for every individual being just that, an individual.

As a teen I struggled with depression and anxiety, among the other typical teenage struggles of finding who I was.

I happened to find one amazing person that I really trusted who taught me great tools to help me through this time, but I often wonder how different that time would’ve been for me if I had also been taught the yoga and mindfulness curriculum that we teach in schools.

Many of these kids simply need to feel heard and seen and be given reasonable and relatable tools in order for them to be a success.

I saw the opportunity to be one of the people to offer that.

But I'll be honest.

Being a secondary yoga instructor in the schools is trying at times (to say the least!)

It's also so very rewarding knowing that I can be that person who gives a compliment or a smile that brightens their day.

That I can be the person that they see each month who they can’t wait to share some new life event with - even if they aren’t a big fan of the actual yoga.

At the beginning of the year, I've had kids who've told me that they hate yoga and refuse to participate.

By the end of the year, they have to admit that they're actually warming up to it.

At the secondary level, each class begins with an emotional and physical feelings check-in.

I love hearing kids say that they are having a bad day or feeling down and then quietly admit to their friends at the end of class that they DO feel better, even though they don’t understand why.

These are the payoffs for working with the kids that so many others see as a pain in the rear.

I don’t get to sing fun songs or do any crafts or teach them dances that incorporate yoga poses, but I do get to see them blossom in an entirely different way, and for me, that is right where I want to be.

Join author Julie Strittmatter for Tea with Teens session.

If you have a teen that would benefit from videos of movement and mindfulness, consider signing up for the C2C Kids Hub!

It's our online wellness platform exclusively for kids and teens.

New mindfulness and yoga content is always being added so your teens can try out and find what strategies work for them.

Plus, you can try it out with a FREE 2-week trial!


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