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Gratitude Activity for Teens

by Martha Mendenhall

Though your teen might appreciate the hand-knit mittens from Grandma or those special sneakers you scoured the mall to find for her, she might not demonstrate her gratitude easily. Help her to develop an easy, open style of showing appreciative thanks by engaging her in a few gratitude activities. You might discover that she doesn’t feel entitled, rather she feels a deep sense of gratitude for life’s blessings.

Dinnertime Thanks

If your family gathers each evening to share dinner, include a brief moment of thanks before you eat. Go around the table and allowing each person, including your teen, to mention one thing for which he is thankful. Alternately, allow each family member to write a short note of gratitude on a white or chalk board hung near the dinner table. The family dinner table is also the perfect environment for small acts of thanks. Designate a special evening meal each week at which each family member chooses to perform a deed of gratitude. Your teen might choose to show gratitude to his sister by refilling her drink or to you by bringing you a cup of hot tea at the meal’s end.

Gratitude Journals

Teens need opportunities to cultivate their personal points of view. A private gratitude journal provides the opportunity to express thankful feelings in an honest, novel way. To avoid putting your teen on the spot, provide journals to each family member for jotting daily notes of personal gratitude. If your teen has a tendency toward looking at things in an ironic or humorously negative way, a private journal will allow her to express her gratitude in her own style, no matter how backhanded it might seem to others. In private, she'll feel free to note that she’s thankful that her history teacher didn’t call on her in class or that the boy she doesn’t like didn’t ask her to the dance.

Spontaneous Gratitude

Your teen might need a nudge or two to openly express gratitude for life’s little things. Take the lead by modeling gratitude for simple, everyday gifts. Mention your thankfulness for the family's cuddly puppy, a toasty fire in the fireplace or the beauty of a snowfall. Modeling gratitude is an activity that can influence your teen to begin to make his own spontaneous shows of thankfulness. Encourage him to look at the world through a lens of gratitude by encouraging him to acknowledge his appreciation for the simple things in life -- his favorite set of bed sheets, a hot shower each day or his best friend’s quirky laugh.

Thank-you Notes

Your teenager might not give a hoot about Emily Post, but it could be important to you to teach her the courtesy of writing thank-you notes. Though Post recommends a handwritten note as the proper way to thank someone for a gift, let your teen begin with emailing thanks, especially to close family and friends with whom she corresponds regularly by email. A festive or funny box of cards and some glittery pens could take the hassle out of note-writing. Your teen might grumble about writing notes, but if you feel strongly that handwritten thank-you notes are important, holding her to completing them at Christmas and her birthday will help instill the habit as she grows up.

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