Living Stewardship

Teaching Teens to Be Thankful
By Patt Saso
Patt and Steve Saso are national speakers and authors committed to assisting parents and educators in raising respectful and responsible children.

 Are you feeling grateful?

Research indicates that those individuals who express gratitude and have a strong sense of love and appreciation in their lives do not necessarily have more material possessions than others. What they do have is the ability to recognize and appreciate what is around them.

No better time now than to express appreciation.

Richard Carlson, PhD., author of the best seller Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, wrote “Throughout history wise men and women have encouraged us to feel grateful for what we have.  Why? Very simply because gratitude makes us feel good.  When you're feeling grateful, your mind is clear, and therefore you have access to your greatest wisdom and common sense.  You see the big picture.”  For the record, Dr. Carslon gave us an endorsement on our book, 10 Best Gifts for Your Teen. He passed away in 2006 leaving a wife and two daughters. Life is fragile. Don’t waste anymore time.  Expressing thankfulness not only helps us feel better about ourselves, it also spreads joy. The following are three ways we can share and teach gratitude.

Practice slowing down.

I mean, way down. Busier is not better. When we rush around and feel hurried we have a tendency to get anxious and impatient. This is not good for us or our children.  To cultivate an attitude of gratitude we need to release anger, frustration or anxiety. As a parent, it seems I am always worried about something with my kids! So I visualize my worries, attach them to helium balloons and release them into the heavens.  Our minds are clearer when we are freed up from negative energy. We are more present because we are living in the here and now.

Practice living in the now.

If we are too anxious about the future, which hasn’t come yet, or consumed with sadness about our past, which we are unable to change, we are blinded to the wonderful moment right in front of us.  We can’t appreciate this if we are lost in thought of the past or future.  The only moment we have is this one. Once it passes we can never retrieve it.  Sometimes when teens are in the house, and the pain and confusion are up, we don’t want to be in the now!  Let alone be grateful.

Many teens are in a semi-permanent state of negativity. They appear unhappy and dissatisfied.  Knowing that this is a developmental stage, and temporary, we can help our teens by not reacting to what we perceive as hostility.  Instead, in those painful moments, we can remind ourselves that our child is so much more than this moment of unhappiness.

In our mind’s eye we can focus on her strengthens and gifts. Remind ourselves that she has a good sense of humor, is a talented musician, loves working with children, or is a dedicated worker.  And when the right moment arises share these thoughts, not criticisms.

Practice saying “thank you” more.

During the teen years, family life is often in a state of constant flux. Tension runs high.  When things seem to be going wrong in the family this is the time to have the courage to dig for something good to remember.  

For example, “I am grateful that our family is committed to hanging in there during these difficult times.”  Mary J. Lore, author of the award-winning book Managing Thought: How Do Your Thoughts Rule Your World?, writes “Practicing thankfulness is one o f the most powerful ways of thinking to bring about a change in our circumstances.”  If we want to reduce the stress in our households maybe we need to think about the problems differently, stop blaming our teens and focus on what we do have.