9 Ways to Foster Gratitude in Teenagers

gratitude in teenagers
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Although gratitude provides a multitude of benefits for everyone – ranging from physical health to mental health – there may be particular advantages for teenagers.  Grateful teens are more likely to be happy, less likely to have behavior problems, and less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, according to a 2012 report by the American Psychological Association. Grateful teens also tend to be more hopeful about the future which can influence their college and career choices.

Despite the benefits, the words grateful and teenagers often don’t go together. In fact, the younger generations have frequently been referred to as “spoiled,” and “entitled.” But that doesn’t mean you have to raise an ungrateful teenager. Everyone has the opportunity to become more grateful in life – including teens. Here are nine things parents can do to foster gratitude in teenagers:

1. Role Model Gratitude

Research shows teens are confused about their family values because parents are saying one thing and doing something different. Telling your teen to be grateful won't be effective unless you also demonstrate gratitude in your own life. Show your teen you’re grateful for a sunny day, a delicious meal, or time to spend with family. Instead of complaining about a bad day or grumbling about having to go to the grocery store, make it a habit to point out all the things you have to be thankful for.

2. Talk About the Good in Difficult Situations

It’s often easy to feel grateful when life is going well. But when problems arise or tragedy strikes, it can be difficult to experience gratitude. Help your teen find something to be thankful for even when dealing with a tough situation. For example, if your teen is struggling in math, he may learn patience.

Or, if he was cut from the basketball team, he may have an opportunity to discover a new passion or hobby. Even when things don’t work out the way your child wants, good things can still happen and new lessons can be learned.

3. Create a Gratitude Bulletin Board

Use notecards to write down what you feel grateful for and pin them to a bulletin board. Make it a family activity to add to the bulletin board throughout the week. This can be a reminder to focus on all the good things that happen each day and all the things that you to be grateful for – even when you’re going through a difficult time.

4. Discuss Gratitude Regularly

Make it a habit to talk about the things you feel grateful for every day. One of the many benefits of eating dinner together as a family is that a meal can provide a great opportunity to share what you’re feeling thankful for. Asking questions like, “What was the best part of your day?” can encourage your teen to look for the positive highlights.

5. Write Thank-You Notes

When your teen receives gifts or help from other people, encourage her to write thank-you notes.

Thanking people in a tangible way can increase feelings of gratitude and provide a helpful reminder about all the wonderful people who give time, money, and gifts.

6. Help Your Teen Finding Meaning and Purpose

Teens who are excited to get out of bed every day because they have things they feel passionate about are much more likely to experience gratitude.  Help your teen explore lots of different opportunities – from a part-time job to doing volunteer work – to help her discover things she really enjoys. (Check out these 10 teens who are changing the world through volunteer work).

7. Focus on Intrinsic Motivation

External motivators – like public recognition – can help teens behave kindly when other people are watching, but if you really want your teen to behave altruistically, focus on internal motivators. Talk about how it feels good to help other people and how gratitude improves our mood and overall well-being. These sorts of benefits can help motivate your teen to behave compassionately and to experience gratitude more often.

8. Make Helping Other People a Habit

Make it a family goal to help other people often. Help others in a formal way by fundraising for charities or by organizing community activities. Make it a habit to also help people informally by cooking dinner for a family experiencing a difficult time or by raking leaves for an elderly neighbor. Look for opportunities to behave altruistically and it can foster your teen’s sense of gratitude. Caring for others is just one strategy toward raising a kind and caring teen.

9. Support Your Teen’s Independence

It’s important for teens to have a sense of independence and autonomy. When they’re able to make  healthy decisions for themselves and they can reap rewards of the behavior they choose – not just the things parents tell them to do – they’re more likely to experience a sense of gratitude. Help your teen gain essential skills for independence – such as problem-solving skills and assertiveness skills – and then provide plenty of opportunities for your teen to make choices independently.

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