When we were young, my parents, Rita and Deepak Chopra, taught my brother and me many valuable lessons. They taught us the importance of kindness and gratitude, how to connect with and listen to others, how to express ourselves authentically, and how to deal with the everyday stress that is a part of life. Perhaps the most valuable lessons they taught us were the power to know our feelings, choose our reactions, and take action to create the life we wanted.
Now, as a mother of two teenage girls, I have navigated the overstimulated, over-worked, high-pressure, sleep-deprived, and social-anxiety ridden reality that many of our kids are facing today. More than two million kids in the US have been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and mental health challenges are rampant in high schools and colleges across the country. There is an urgent need to teach kids how to manage the ups and downs of life, and maintain calm and clarity during the normal stresses of everyday life.
We can empower kids with knowledge about how their mind works and give them important tools for social and emotional intelligence. When kids know that a range of feelings—from sadness to loneliness, excitement and happiness—are normal and natural, they begin to relax. And, when they are empowered to make choices about how to react to situations and take action to be healthier and happier, it is transformational. There are practical ways we can teach kids these important lessons:
- Kids can learn mindfulness techniques to become more aware of their body, mind, surroundings, desires, and feelings. By knowing the range of feelings and how to process them in their bodies, kids can build up resilience for challenging situations.
- With knowledge and the ability to think before they act, kids can choose what to focus on, understand why they perceive the world the way they do, and think about how they want to interact with others and live their life.
- By learning how to smartly manage their time, how to listen and interact with others, they can set smart goals to be happier, healthier and more successful.
Parents, teachers, and caregivers play an important role in creating a safe space for kids to explore their feelings and express their hopes and fears. Adults can help guide kids to make healthy choices around friendships, homework extracurricular activities, and sleep.
My parents taught us not just with words, but through their own actions. Adults can role model for kids how they deal with sadness, frustration, and failure–letting kids know that there are always challenges in life, but there are ways to face them with hope and strength. Adults can demonstrate kindness, gratitude, empathy, and service, shaping the next generation to be loving, empathetic, strong, and happy.
Mallika Chopra is the author of Just Feel: How To Be Stronger, Healthier, Happier, and More and Just Breathe: Meditation, Mindfulness, Movement, and More.