It’s not an easy time for pre-teens and teens out there today.
With each generation comes new challenges parents never expected their children to have to face. With social pressures, the stress of succeeding in today’s academic world, worrying about finding a job in today’s economy once school is done, and other emotional challenges, it’s no wonder many of today’s pre-teens and teens feel overwhelmed and, sometimes, hopeless.
In the Bay Area, teen depression and suicide are not unfamiliar issues. That’s why the Milpitas Empowering ‘Tweens Group formed—to help support local youth through the difficult transition years of ages 9 to 13, make them feel like they’re not alone, and give them healthy and creative outlets to help them deal with everyday stress.
“The Milpitas Empowering ‘Tweens group addresses the major issues that youngsters are facing today,” explained Gungun Kapoor, one of the group’s organizers. “During the pre-adolescent ages of 9 to 13, children undergo a lot of changes emotionally, cognitively, intellectually and physically. These can be confusing, threatening, and more so, coupled with external pressures they face with regards to peer pressure, bullying, asserting oneself, crushes, jealousy, grades, and achievement stress.”
Kapoor added, as pre-teens struggle to discover their new, young-adult identities, they tend to share less and less with their parents and other adults in their lives.
“At the same time, they start to turn away from parents and from support, and toward their peers instead,” she said. “It’s kind of like the blind leading the blind.”
Milpitas Empowering ‘Tweens is sponsored by the ART Excel Program through the Art of Living Foundation. ART Excel stands for “All-Round Training in Excellence.”
“It aims to provide ‘tweens with avenues for healthy expression through fun games, yoga-based processes, group activities and meditation, and at the same time, provide them with skills that empower them to effectively face life's challenges,” Kapoor explained.
In addition to providing the ‘tweens with emotional support and teaching them to talk through their problems and concerns, the group also aims to develop healthy and confidence-building skills through yoga and meditation to help reduce stress, and activities that teach them leadership, schoolwork and study skills, and more.
“It is a highly effective and practical program,” said Kapoor. “It works to unlock the potential of each child by teaching them valuable tools for dealing with stress and their emotions; leadership skills; how to get better grades; how to increase focus, attention and confidence; and how to make more friends.”
Kapoor said the response has been very positive.
“The positive feedback from the children is amazing! It really seems to help them a lot and makes a big difference in their lives,” she said. “I wish I had taken such a program when I was young. It is a very timely topic since stress, violence, bullying and suicide is such an issue in schools these days.”
One former student wrote Kapoor a letter after completing the Empowering ‘Tweens course, and said, “I loved the course. My experience was great. It made me more happy. Before, I used to be very scared of doing things. But, after the course, I am feeling confident.”
Local mom Indira Kandi said her son, who is now in fourth grade, recently participated in the Milpitas Empowering ‘Tweens program, and that it had a profoundly positive impact on him.
“The most important thing for me was that he like the class, and he did,” she said. “He told me, ‘I love it, Mom.’”
Kandi said she appreciated the “basic, core skills” the program helped instill in her son, which allow him to better deal with stresses and pressures common for kids his age.
“They go through such stress, like academic and social pressures, and he probably doesn’t understand it,” she said. “And it’s sometimes hard for parents to help them through these sensitive issues. And they’re all common problems, they just need to know how to handle them.”
Kandi said her son came home from the program happier and more confident, telling her about the friends he made, about how the staff taught him how to feel better about stress, and wanting to know if he could repeat the class once it was finished.
“It’s a very good class,” she said.
For those with older teens, Kapoor said many Bay Area high schools are also adopting similar programs for ages 14-18.
For more information about the Milpitas Empowering ‘Tweens Group, visit the group’s Meetup.com page.
The group’s next event is this Sunday, Nov. 6 at 3 p.m., and is open to both ‘tweens and their parents. The free event will feature yoga, breathing and meditation, games and more. It will be held at the , 600 Valley Way, Bldg. 5, in Milpitas. Register for free here.