As you might expect, teens with a grateful heart are more likely than less grateful peers to be happy, and they are less likely to run into trouble with drugs, alcohol and bad behavior, according to research presented at the American Psychological Association’s annual convention in Orlando this week.
“These findings suggest that gratitude may be strongly linked with life-skills such as cooperation, purpose, creativity and persistence and, as such, gratitude is vital resource that parents, teachers and others who work with young people should help youth build up as they grow up,” said lead author Giacomo Bono, PhD, psychology professor at California State University. “More gratitude may be precisely what our society needs to raise a generation that is ready to make a difference in the world.”
So what can you do to cultivate gratitude in children?
Perhaps the best thing parents can do is model gratitude, says Aimee Jennings, Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and Coordinator for the CHILL program, a free counseling program offered in Winter Park Consortium Schools. (See more about the CHILL program, by clicking on “About CYI” and then “CHILL” at the top of the web page.)
It is healthy for everyone to be mindful of and talk about what went right during the day rather than complaining about the things that went wrong, according to Ms. Jennings.
Here are some other suggestions:
- Families can create gratitude rituals, such as having family members say what they are grateful for at dinner.
- Have children write thank you notes.
- Don’t give children everything they want.
- Encourage grateful behaviors among family members-making sure to say thank you when another family member does something nice.
- Clarify the difference between rights and privileges with teens.
- Get family members involved in a volunteer project in the community. Seeing what others have or don’t have can make you grateful for what you do have.
- Give teens responsibilities, and reward completion with privileges.