When I talk to other parents one of the biggest gripes, they have about their teen is that they wish they were more grateful.
Being a teen today is way more complicated than it was in our day. Their access to fast fashion and beauty is at an all-time high. Social media gives them a view into other people’s lives and they are often left with the perception that everyone else has everything and they are missing out.
Because teens are still maturing, instant gratification is their dopamine hit of choice. So being able to slow a teen down and teach them appreciation for what they have can be super challenging.
It is well worth it though, as a more grateful teen reports more hope, greater engagement in hobbies and school and suffers less from envy and depression. Practicing gratitude helps teens feel more socially competent and connected and more satisfied in life, as well as more motivated by their future.
So how can we as parents nurture their appreciation and cultivate a gratitude mindset?
1. Lead by example, you’ll be surprised what teens pick up on and notice. You need to model what gratitude looks like. Start by finding three things a day you are grateful for and trying to verbalise this to your teen. You might though want to try and do this as naturally as possible otherwise your teen will be onto you very quickly!
2. Try and make a grateful mindset a value you have as a family - maybe start a family tradition at dinner where you all say what you are grateful for. It is something you all have to get behind, otherwise you might be met with some resistance and a few eye rolls.
3. Volunteer! Volunteering helps foster gratitude. Acts of service are a great way to see others display gratitude and to also expand your community to new people. It is super important though you get your teen to buy into this, get them to choose a charity or organisation which aligns with their interests and personality and offer to volunteer together.
4. Perform acts of kindness - look for opportunities to give back and help others. It could be as small as helping a sibling with their homework or baking for a sick friend.
5. Be a glass half full person - life doesn't always go to plan, there are sad days and happy days. It is important that in the sad days we can practice a positive mindset and find the good to be had. This is such an invaluable life skill which will carry your teen throughout their lives. Again, this is also good practice for parents to model.
6. Get into the habit of thanking people. This is a super easy way to practice gratitude on the regular, make sure your teen thanks friends who have them over, their teachers and coaches and get them into the habit of texting friends and thanking them when they have helped them in some way.
7. Focus on your teen’s strengths, when you do this, you are less likely to put emphasis on the negative in life. Build your teen up and encourage them to have pride in the strengths that they have. Eventually you can also encourage them to leverage these strengths to help others eg; “I really love your jokes, you really cheered me up yesterday” or “I love you baking, you sister loves taking it to school for lunch”.
Teaching gratitude is an ongoing practice that we as parents also need to be committed to. Not every teen is going to jump on the gratitude bandwagon straight away and you need to listen to them with sensitivity and empathise as much as possible.
And remember positive vibes only - you’ve got this!
Founder - Evre.
If you feel like you still need more help, reach out to someone you trust. This could be a parent, friend, sibling - whoever is willing to listen. Or if that isn't comfortable for you, Youthline has an anonymous and non-judgmental helpline you can call or text. It’s like a free listening ear for you to vent and let out your frustrations. Free call the helpline on 0800 376 633.