Raising Grateful Teens this Holiday Season

Family All Together At Christmas DinnerDoes a “grateful teenager” seem like an oxymoron to you? It’s actually not as impossible as it might seem. There are many ways that we, as adults, can encourage teens to develop a grateful outlook on life.

Talk. Our culture does not promote gratefulness, but instead encourages the idea of “must-haves” to be happy. In today’s world of modern conveniences, we take many things for granted. Society pushes our kids to WANT the next thing, but true happiness often has its roots in a person’s sense of gratitude for what they already have. Combat these societal norms by having open conversations with your teens. For example, parents might talk about poor living conditions in their community or a situation where people’s rights were violated.

Role model. Have a grateful attitude. Teens and tweens absolutely notice when the adults around them have an attitude of gratitude and when they don’t. Every adult in an adolescent’s life is teaching them how to behave through their actions. If your teen catches you saying “thank you,” writing a note of gratitude, or volunteering, they will be more likely to recognize that gratitude is a practiced part of life. Here are some ways to role model gratitude:

  • Express appreciation when someone opens a door for you, smiles kindly, wishes you well, or offers a compliment. Point out that the kind and thoughtful behaviors of others make our days better and connect us to other people in our community in a positive way.
  • Show your teen how thankful you are by talking about your gratitude for things many take for granted. Express thanks for a roof over your head, clothes on your back, and food on your table. Talk about the wonders of life. Admire the people around you.
  • Explain to teenagers that we can be thankful even for difficult circumstances because they help to shape us and make us better people.
  • Especially, take the time to express gratitude for your teen – for the way they make you laugh, or the way they change your perspective, or whenever your teen is helpful. When you can honestly appreciate the teen in your life, they will be more likely to extend gratitude back.


Volunteer. Helping others can be very fulfilling, and if you can show your teen, through example, how enriching it is, they’ll start to make an association between helping someone else and their own joy. Service projects can help youth develop empathy for others and realize how fortunate they are in comparison. There are lots of service projects available to teens, including: organizing a blood drive; hosting a themed event for young kids at the local library; assisting Habitat for Humanity; holding a collection (such as canned goods for the food bank); caring for animals at the shelter; cleaning park trails; or sending care packages to troops or sick children. Volunteering as a family at a local charity can provide quality bonding time and help teens recognize their own blessings more readily.

Encourage. Teens love to be in charge, so use that desire to your advantage and ask your teen to develop some ideas to increase gratitude in the family. You can offer them some ideas, but allow them to decide what to do and how to organize it.

Final Thoughts…

Studies consistently show that people who are grateful or thankful are happier, more satisfied, and healthier overall in their lives than people who are not. In a 2012 report by the American Psychological Association, grateful teens are less likely to have behavior problems, less likely to abuse drugs or alcohol, and tend to be more hopeful about the future, which can influence their college and career choices. Gratitude is a state of mind and an ongoing choice, so take the time to develop a sense of thankfulness in your teen. It will be a gift that keeps on giving!

From everyone here at Middle Earth, we wish you and your loved ones a very happy Thanksgiving!

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