When was the last time you enjoyed a little peace and quiet? If you’re like most parents, it’s been a while. So, just for a moment, imagine yourself sitting someplace still and beautiful, listening to the wind in the trees or the sound of waves lapping the shore. Take a deep breath and feel your whole body relax… Even in your imagination, it feels great, doesn’t it?

Quiet time feels so good because it resets the nervous system, providing big benefits for both parents and teens. Researchers say that spending just a few minutes in silence reduces stress, improves memory and cognition, and increases focus and creativity. But in modern life, quiet is hard to come by. Here, we’ve gathered our favorite strategies for cultivating quiet and helping teens tap into its power.

  1. Meditate, but start small. Mindfulness helps teens quiet their minds and breathe some space in between busy thoughts. Even short sessions have proven benefits, and all teens need to get started is their breath. Zen Habits founder Leo Babauta suggests starting with two minutes a day: “Just sit and put your attention on your breath, returning when your thoughts distract you.” Our guide to 3 Mini-Meditations for Teens has more ideas for keeping meditation short and sweet. After they get used to a shorter practice, teens can work their way up to longer sessions or try out different techniques until they discover what works best for them.

  2. Clear noise clutter. Noise is everywhere… so much so that you probably don’t even notice it. But just like physical clutter, constant sounds keep the brain active, alert, and distracted, making it hard for teens to focus and de-stress. You can help your teen identify their most common noise distractions and try turning down the volume. A few ideas: If they usually listen to music while studying, try silence instead. If the TV is always on even when no one is watching, get in the habit of turning it off. Silence everyone’s phone notifications when the family is hanging out, or take a break from podcasts and music when you’re in the car together.

  3. Create daily quiet times. Set a timer for one minute of quiet before a meal, or pick a time for the whole family to take a daily 15-minute brain break. Quiet time is especially good for cultivating calm during otherwise-chaotic transitions. You and your teen can design quiet time to work for you. Try it when everybody gets home from school and work, or just before bed. Whether you spend it alone or together, agree to turn off technology and treat it like downtime. Meditate, read a book, journal, or work on a creative project. When everybody is on board, quiet time helps the whole family recharge their batteries and unwind.

  4. Spend time in nature. Parents can help teens develop an appreciation of the natural world, and nothing brings the benefits of quiet like time in nature. If your teen is active and energetic, plan a hike or a kayaking trip. For more introspective teens, take up a quiet hobby together like painting, bird watching, or stargazing. Explore a new park, or have breakfast in the backyard. And whenever you go outside together, listen to the sound of silence. For even more ideas, check out our post on Re-centering With Nature.

  5. Encourage quiet time after studying. Researchers from NYU found that resting after studying enhances learning. When study participants rested after their associative memory was tested, their hippocampus and cortical regions showed a boost in activity and their brain correlations were stronger. \”Taking a… break after class can actually help you retain that information you just learned,\” says NYU Assistant Professor Lila Davachi. \”Your brain wants you to tune out other tasks so you can tune in to what you just learned.\”

  6. Nurture introverts with extra quiet time. Teens who identify as introverts need quiet even more than most. If your child is an introvert, Susan Cain’s book Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts can help you understand their unique needs. According to Cain, “Introverts have nervous systems that help them react more to stimulation…They want to come home at the end of the day and recharge their batteries. That might mean being alone or quiet at the end of the day. They may tell you that they don’t like a given activity after school and it might be that really what they’re reacting to is the simple problem of not having enough downtime. The key is to always be looking out. How can I give them that time?”

Remember, just a few minutes of quiet time is all it takes to reset your teen’s nervous system, and yours, too. These simple strategies help teens rebound from stress, find focus, and learn better, and the whole family may be surprised to discover the unexpected power of quiet. 

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