Expressing gratitude makes teens happier.

Gratitude Activity for Teens

by Sally Miles

Teenagers get so caught up in academics, extracurricular activities and social relationships that they often don't take time to give thanks for all they have. Grateful teens are happier and have less substance abuse and behavioral problems than teens who do not feel gratitude, according to the American Psychological Association. Encourage your teen to express thanks through simple activities that will develop into lifelong positive habits.

1. Give Back

One way to show appreciation for life's gifts is to lend a helping hand to those who are less fortunate. Encourage your teen to collect gently used toys and clothing from around your neighborhood to donate to a local women's shelter. Local food banks and animal shelters are always looking for volunteers with a few hours to spare. Academically high-achieving teens can participate in peer tutoring programs run through schools and churches. Scouting groups and school-sponsored service learning clubs provide opportunities for young people to give back to the community as well.

2. Gratitude Journal

Encourage your teen to keep a gratitude journal, in which she lists four things about each day that she is grateful for. These can be specific, such as getting a high grade on a test, or general, such as having a happy family. Gratitude journals are available at bookstores, or your teen can choose a notebook, journal or calendar that suits her style. Gratitude journal apps are available for smart phones for those who prefer storing their thoughts electronically. You might suggest that she make a nightly ritual of journaling at bedtime.

3. Gratitude Family Collages

Your teen can construct a collage showing gratitude for his family using photos and other mementos such as ticket stubs and postcards from vacations. A collage might represent one specific year in the life of your family, or a special holiday or event. Teen artists will enjoy putting their own style into the design of their collage, while tech-savvy teens can scan their artifacts and make a digital collage to share with the family electronically. Younger siblings can make collages as well, so this may turn into an enjoyable and meaningful family tradition.

4. Thank You Letters

Encourage your teen to commit to a year's worth of monthly letters of gratitude. Rather than thanking someone for an item or a favor, Harvard Medical School suggests thanking a person for the impact they've had on an individual's life. Your teen may choose to write a letter to a family member, teacher, coach, friend or anyone else whose words or actions have made a strong impact. While it is fine to send the letter, your teen may choose to deliver it in person.

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