“Thank you.” Sounds like a simple phrase that you hear every day, yet these two common words put together can be very powerful. You probably taught your children to use this polite expression from the moment they learned how to talk, along with “please.” Although sometimes, you have to remind them to use their manners and express their gratitude when receiving a gift or compliment.
What you may not realize is that you aren’t just teaching them a social skill. You’re providing your children with a tool for happiness and resilience. More and more research proves the consistent link between gratitude and greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, alleviate depression, improve health, better manage adversity and build strong relationships. Feeling grateful for even the smallest things in life can help you be more patient too, according to research from the Northeastern University.
When your children experience gratitude, they are also building emotional resilience because they realize that things aren’t as bad as they seem, especially for teens. The adolescent brain doesn’t fully develop until age 25, making teenagers’ reasoning more black and white. The ability to be grateful is a sign that they’re working on finding a healthy balance. Below are a few tips to help raise a grateful and generous teen:
- Walk your talk. Remember to model gratitude yourself and talk about what you’re grateful for so your child sees you are doing it too. Gratitude is contagious! The more you do it, the more reasons you’ll find to give thanks.
- Start a gratitude conversation. Dinner is the perfect time to catch up with each other and go over your day together. Ask your teen what is one thing they’re grateful for. Feel free to model how you want the conversation to go by sharing with them one thing that happened in your day that you are grateful for or consider making a gratitude jar.
- Support your teen during the hard times. When something challenging happens, validate their experience, normalize it, but also bring them back to the present when they’re ready. Ask them what they can learn from the experience and how they can grow from it moving forward. Don’t go too quickly, give them time and space. But once they have processed the experience, encourage them to view it as a learning lesson.
- Encourage your teen to volunteer. Let your teen experience something rather than just talk about it. Go out and let your teen get exposed to people who need help and let them live a real experience that they can learn from.
Remember, building grateful character traits can increase your teen’s happiness and resiliency when faced with life’s challenges. Adolescents are naturally entitled because that’s just the way their brain works. Help them focus and build their gratitude muscle and emotional strength. Think of it as a rubber band! You can stretch it but it’ll return to its original shape. The same applies to your teen’s emotions. When pushed to the limit, having that muscle built can help them bounce back and carry on.
Looking for some inspiration? Our printable gratitude cards can help get your gratitude tradition started!