A New Generation of Youth Wellness Programs Is Growing Up

Photo: Stocksy / Bruce + Rebecca Meissner
All parts of wellness had a shake up this year—how we work out, what we eat, the products we put on our faces, the way we rest—and the reverberations of those changes will be felt into 2021 and beyond. Here's how the innovations born of this year will usher us into the future.

New launches over the past couple years have made it possible for your kids to do yoga with Elmo and meditate with Barbie. But the coronavirus pandemic—and the resulting closure of the places through which young people gain access to well-being services (e.g. schools, libraries, community centers, and more)—has brought a new urgency to the creation of wellness programs geared towards kids and teens. Pair that with a growing awareness among Gen Z of self care and mindfulness practices as a way to cope with mounting stressors, and wellness is poised for an injection of teen spirit in 2021.

“What I think we're going to see is more [wellness practitioners] will find ways to provide their services in the home. And obviously, digital is a huge part of that,” says Nicole Cardoza, founder of Yoga Foster, a non-profit dedicated to providing educators and students with yoga and mindfulness resources. For Cardoza, this has meant launching Wellemental, a digital app (designed to be sensory-friendly and available in both Spanish and English) extension of Yoga Foster, in late October 2020. Coming up next: a teen-devoted app in 2021.

Other notable 2020 digital launches and expansions dedicated to serving a younger market include the aforementioned Barbie Wellness Collection by Mattel (with corresponding YouTube meditations); new partnerships for the meditation app Headspace with Sesame Street and Snapchat$12 million in seed funding for Moshi, a sleep app for kids developed by the Calm founder and CEO; and new youth-focused offerings from the uber-popular YouTube yoga instructor Adriene Mischler (over 8.5 million subscribers) and digital fitness platform Obé.

“I don't want anyone to be in their 30s and having to unpack all of the stuff that they couldn't unpack when they were younger because they didn't have the tools.” —Sinikiwe Dhliwayo, Naaya founder

In August, wellness community Naaya began The Check-In, a new initiative designed to break down barriers to well-being for BIPOC youth by giving them access to technology and mindfulness services. “I don't want anyone to be in their 30s and having to unpack all of the stuff that they couldn't unpack when they were younger because they didn't have the tools,” says Naaya founder Sinikiwe Dhliwayo, who plans to expand The Check-In to include free, culturally conscious therapy for teens on a subscription model in 2021.

While it was once parents pushing their kids into “mommy and me” yoga classes, the next generation of youth wellness offerings are rising to meet demand from young people themselves. “What I'm experiencing with Gen Z is that they've grown up with more information about self care,” says Ally Mazerolle, founder of Girlvana, a yoga and wellness program for teen girls, and author of the upcoming Girlvana book (to be released spring 2021). “They’re asking, ‘How can I take care of myself? What do I need?’”

Next year, we’ll see the seeds planted in 2020 take root, with all brands and organizations mentioned above confirming they will continue to build out their slate of services for young folks. Additionally, in the spring, teen clothing brand Hollister will award grants to groups “dedicated to championing confidence and mental wellness in teens across the globe.” And top kids’ yoga video creator Cosmic Kids (1 million YouTube subscribers) will debut a new TV series—while there’s no official launch date yet, Variety reports the program was “fast-tracked.”

“We oftentimes forget that the people that need wellness most right now are the ones to come next,” says Cardoza. Not anymore.

Explore the rest of our 2021 Wellness Trends.

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