Feelings of gratitude may not be easy for adolescents. Adolescents, by virtue of how they are wired, can be very self-centered at this time in development. No judgments. It is what it is. Feelings of "everyone is watching me in gym class", to how world events affect their lives, to a deep longing for the latest and greatest cell phone are just some of the examples of self-centeredness teens can express.
So how can we teach the concept of gratitude? Let’s start by showing gratitude and appreciation TO the teens in our lives. Yes, they are strong-willed. Yes, they know everything. Yes, they also know how to eye roll. As a mom of two teenage daughters myself, I am in the trenches. And, yes, I am grateful. Looking past the “I know Mom, I got this” I see independence, empathy, courage, strength, perseverance and a lot of love. Whether we are parents, coaches, educators, mentors, or yoga teachers, gratitude begins with us. We can consciously model and embody gratitude to our beloved teens. Then can then observe, and most importantly FEEL, gratitude in its purest form.
Like yoga, gratitude is a practice. Here are 5 ways to practice gratitude ourselves as well as to use as simple activities to share with teens:
- Giving Thanks Before a Meal. In the spirit of Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays, give thanks for your meal and all who contributed to growing and preparing it. Pause and notice if your food tastes a little differently and maybe you will eat more mindfully. This isn’t reserved just for Thanksgiving, practice this at every meal.
- Write a Letter. Write a letter to someone who has had a positive influence on you. This can be anyone who has helped you in some way, big or small. Be sure to specifically acknowledge what this person did for you and how it affected you.
- Gratitude Reminder. Place an object or simply a post-it note somewhere in your home which will remind you to feel grateful each time you look at it. (This works well for affirmations, too!)
- Gratitude Journal. Begin a gratitude journal and take 2 minutes to write in in before going to bed each night. Write 5 things about that day for which you are grateful. Some days you will have some exciting things to write about. Other days it can be a simple as “I am so grateful that I wore socks today because it was cold.” Acknowledge one ungrateful thought and transform it to a grateful one. For example, you might change “I can’t believe someone backed into my car,” to “I am grateful that I have insurance to pay for the damage.”
- Stick-Em’s Game. This activity is great for large or small gatherings. On a post-it note, write a word or phrase that demonstrates gratitude for the person you are writing about. Start with “Thank you for_____”. For example, “Thank you for being so kind to me when my cat died.” Walk around the room and "stick-em'" on the backs of each person you are writing to. When everyone is finished, help each other pull them off and spend some time reflecting on the appreciation you have received and given.
Once gratitude is truly felt, it can be a game changer. Acceptance, contentedness and overall sense of well being are the direct result of gratitude. What are you thankful for today?
I’m grateful for this quote (which also a great one to use as a discussion starter with your teens:
“It is not happy people who are thankful, it is thankful people who are happy.” -Author unknown
Karen Michaud-Holland, RYT 200, serves as ChildLight Yoga's Teen Yoga Teacher Trainer. With almost 18 years of experience as a certified group fitness instructor, Karen taught a variety of classes to adults and youth. For many years she was employed at a K-8 school as a paraeducator working with students of all abilities and ages. She identified an immense need to bring movement and mindfulness to children and teens. Uniting her passions for fitness and youth, Karen became a ChildLight Yoga Instructor and a trainer for Yoga 4 Classrooms. She also become a registered yoga teacher through Yoga NH’s teacher training program. Always a student of yoga, Karen continues her education through workshops and self-study. She takes great joy in sharing and educating people of all ages about the many remarkable benefits yoga has to offer, with a special interest in educating teens during this transitional and often stressful time in their lives. As author/creator of the program and manual, she is especially thrilled to share the ChildLight Yoga Teen Yoga Teacher Training with like-minded individuals serving adolescents. Karen resides in Gilmanton Iron Works, New Hampshire with her husband and two daughters.