When kids are young, it is fairly easy promote an attitude of gratitude. We make sure they say "thank you" when we give them things or do things for them, we have them say what they are thankful for at the dinner table, and we can make them write thank you notes.
When it comes to teens, though, promoting gratitude is a much trickier process. For teens who are trying to create their own unique identity, being grateful can be equated to being indebted. So how do we go about fostering gratitude in our teens? Here are a few pointers:
(1) Continue making them write thank you notes. Writing down gratitude is much more passive on the teen's end but very appreciated by the receiver.
(2) Casually remind them of favors. If your teen receives something from another teen or a parent, like a ride for instance, non-chalantly say "That was very nice of them to give you a ride." This reminds them that they were not entitled to the ride but that it was a favor.
(3) Expose them to the less fortunate. Now that they are teens, they are much more able to process sad and difficult situations. Now is the time to start exposing your teens to unfortunate situations. When a bad storm occurs, for instance, have them watch the news coverage with you. Talk about third-world countries where children starve on a daily basis. Do an internet search with them about homeless teens and families. Don't say to them, "Look what these kids go through, you should be thankful for what you have." They will come to this conclusion on their own. Let them absorb the information, talk to them about the issues, and let them form their own gratitude.
(4) Don't panic. Keep in mind that what your teen shows you is typically not what your teen shows the rest of the world. Your kids will inevitably keep the emotional outbursts and snarky comments all for you. In an odd way, you should be happy because this means that your teen feels emotionally safe with you.
(5) Be persistent. As a parent, you do want your teen to be appreciative of all that you do. Demand respect and demand a "thank you" for the big things. And on the other side, make sure that you say "thank you" to your teens for the things they do for you even if it is an expected household chore.
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Sheri Gazitt, Teen Life Coach