Book Review of The Mindful Teen by Dzung X. Vo, MD

Posted on January 31, 2017


As part of the “Instant Help Solutions” series from New Harbinger books, The Mindful Teen lives up to this claim. I can imagine this book falling into the hands of my girl-self, growing up surrounded by farmland, with nary a therapist in sight. A book like this could have helped me manage the chronic stress that caused my teenage self many health troubles, including irritable bowel syndrome, which was caused by swallowing all the words and feelings I couldn’t say. It would have been a lifeline. I love this book. Even before I finished the first chapter, I was trying to decide how many more copies I need to buy. This book can help everyone I know–with something–whether the issue is physical, emotional, mental, or social.

Dr. Vo’s prose is clear, concise, and coherent. It is a joy to read. Each chapter explains a context in which someone might be helped by mindfulness, like “Stress, Health, and Coping,” “Caring for Your Body,” “Seeing Your Thoughts As Only Thoughts,” “Handling Difficult Emotions,” handling conflict, peacemaking, and sleeping. Short explanations of key concepts are followed by instructions for meditations selected for particular situations and are accompanied by stories from teens who found mindfulness practices beneficial for dealing with a similar situation or circumstance. Many meditation practices are followed with questions for reflection, giving readers ways to make sense of, apply, and integrate practices into their self-care toolbox.

For a little over a year now, I’ve been using mindfulness practices in my high school classes–at least twice per week as a part of social-emotional lessons that include topics on self-care and relationship-building for a more peaceful and productive classroom. The number one “rule” in my classroom is “We are a caring circle of friends.” On day one, I establish that this is the highest priority in our work together. Mindfulness practices help my students cultivate self-awareness, self-compassion, and self-control, which in turn help them be more successful academically and socially, so that we may truly be a caring circle of friends.

I am looking forward to sharing a number of practices from The Mindful Teen with my learning community. A few that look particularly interesting to me:

  • the hand model of the brain (15), which will help students deepen their understanding of brain structure and function through physicalization;
  • informal mindfulness of pleasant moments and gratitude journal (69), that can help students cultivate appreciation for themselves, the world, and other beings;
  • the handling perfectionism practice (144), which can bring hope to students who struggle with this inner bully;
  • deep listening and compassionate speech (155), that will help us build community;
  • handling conflict (162) and reconciliation (174), that can help students build stronger relationships,
  • and sleep hygiene (193), which can help students get enough rest to be well.

I was moved by all the stories from teens, their struggles, and the ways they’re using mindfulness to live a more positive present and lay foundations for a positive future. The second teen narrative appears on page twelve, titled, “Lisa’s Story.” Along with having the same name, that Lisa and this one have the same pain: chronic back pain caused by a past car accident. Fortunately, we’ve both found that mindfulness practices help us manage stress and decrease pain.

The book includes great resources beyond its covers, at, where Dr. Vo has provided audio recordings of several guided meditations. I use the recordings often in my classroom. In fact, a few days ago, just as I said, “And here comes Dr. Vo,” and reached to push “play” on the computer screen, a student proclaimed enthusiastically, “I love you, Dr. Vo!” After a year of using these meditations, it almost seems like Dr. Vo is a valuable member of my classroom community! Additional resources include downloadable accessories, and “The Mindful Teen” is on Facebook and Twitter.

I do think that this book could help almost anyone–of any age–deal with the stresses and struggles of life, but if you know any teens, PLEASE buy them this book. It could be a real life saver. I wish it had existed when I was a teen. It might have eased my suffering on the long, dark, and lonely journey through adolescence in my tiny mid-western town.

Fortunately, I accidentally discovered meditation in my early twenties, and my healing process began. I’d like every teen to have a self-care toolbox that is as practical and useful as this little book–for immediate relief at a time of high stress–AND for building a positive future built on self-awareness, self-control, and self-compassion. From deep within me, I say “Thank you, Dr. Dzung Vo, for writing The Mindful Teen, and for helping so many people feel better and learn more. May you be well. Sincerely, ms. eddy.”

I have written a blog to help teachers get started with mindfulness practices here.

I have also written a blog to explore the connections between mindfulness practices and the English Language Arts classroom here.