Teens born and raised in the selfie generation have a tendency to focus on themselves—and we just don’t mean on their cellphone cameras. You might say it’s all about them and their needs, their wants, and ultimately what’s missing in their lives—like the latest gadget, or enough “likes” on their social media post.
Parents of teens can help change this “me” attitude by gradually shifting their adolescents’ attention away from themselves and what they perceive is lacking in their lives and guiding them to focus more on what they do have—because, yes, there is a lot to be thankful for. How about a roof above their head, clean water coming out of a faucet, or being able to see, hear, taste, smell, and touch for starters?
My Pope recommends four ways to raise a grateful teen. Who knows? You might find yourself counting your blessings too!
Start a gratitude journal.
Get your teenager one of those nice notebooks and smooth-writing gel pens and ask her to list down at least three things she is thankful for each day for the next 365 days. No judgment on entries like “I’m grateful for Wi Fi” or “I’m thankful for the T-shirt I bought on the 3-day sale.” In time, your teen will find other blessings to be grateful for, like hitching a ride from a friend instead of having to commute home after school on a rainy day, or earning a good grade on a tough exam she spent the weekend studying for. When she reads her entries at the end of the year, she can’t help but realize how blessings come in abundance and through many forms.
Besides the food on the table, name one other thing they are grateful for.
For families who say grace before mealtimes, reciting the popular Catholic prayer “Bless us O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from Thy bounty to Christ our Lord, Amen” can sound routine and lose its meaning. Inject some originality into this pre-mealtime habit by having each family member mention one thing they are thankful for. When your teen listens to everybody’s answers, he’ll be more thoughtful when it’s his turn to share!
Have them unplug once in a while.
Do this not as a way to punish them but rather as an experiment. Do your teens enjoy internet connectivity 24/7? Have them unplug on a Sunday and join them in rediscovering such old school but equally enjoyable activities such as reading, playing board games, or engaging in sports with family and friends. Yes, we’re sure you’ll be hearing them grumble about how “bored” they are, but if you can create an atmosphere of camaraderie and fun, they just might look forward to the next unplugged session!
Bring them to places where they can volunteer.
Sometimes, it takes seeing what others don’t have for you to realize how infinitely blessed you are. Got a teen who thinks his or her life sucks? Sign yourself and her up to one of countless local organizations that could always use a helping hand—from feeding programs (we suggest Reach Out Feed Philippines) and animal shelters (Compassion and Responsibility for Animals [CARA] has a volunteer feeder program) to old folks homes (Anawim is looking for volunteers to spend time with poor and abandoned senior citizens) and even the current relief efforts to help earthquake victims in Mindanao (choose from among the groups and organizations mentioned in this report from Rappler). Helping others gives teens a broader perspective of the world and hopefully makes them find meaning and purpose in life.