How to Encourage Your Teen to Be More Grateful

How to Encourage Your Teen to Be More Grateful

One Christmas when I was in elementary school, I didn’t get a particular present that I wanted. And I complained about it a lot. I don’t even remember what the missing present was, but I remember my grandmother’s response. “When I was little, one Christmas all I received was a dolly. Be happy with what you have.”

All these years later, this incident sticks with me. It’s my reminder to not dwell on material things and to be grateful for what I have.

I know that I am hardly the only kid who was less than grateful. As parents and educators, we want our children to realize all the sacrifices we have made for them, to feed, house, clothe, and educate them. Dang it, we’ve worked hard!

While those are reason enough to want some to see some gratitude, there are so many reasons that practicing gratitude can improve your teen’s life.

According to Psychology Today, grateful people feel better physically and are more likely to take care of them themselves. Gratitude helps get rid of negative emotions and can ease depression. Being grateful can improve not only relationships, but also self-esteem. Heck, grateful people even sleep better.

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How to Encourage Your Teen to be More Grateful

teen grateful

Model the gratitude you want to see

Our children look to us and model our behavior. Grateful teens are made, not born, folks. If we want our teens to be more grateful, we need to be more grateful. It’s so easy to get lost in the day-to-day and to complain. But that is what our children see and will do as well.

Make a positive change for yourself AND your teens.

Write Thank You Notes

While I hope your teen is already writing thank you notes for gifts, instead have them write gratitude notes. These are often NOT for material objects, but for someone’s actions or kind words.

You could easily do this together, each writing their own notes. Get some pretty stationary and stamps, so you can make the recipient’s day.

Keep a Gratitude Journal

I am just starting this myself and already see its power. There is no “right” way to create a gratitude journal. Just get something to write in and something to write with. Make it more enjoyable and get a notebook your teen will really like. Have her use a favorite pen.

Your teen should make a commitment to sit down every day and write down something. It might just be a short bulleted list. Or she could pick one item and write a page expanding on her gratitude. She just needs to write.

Gratitude Photo Journal

This similar to a gratitude journal, but in photographic form. If your teen is a budding photographer, this may be for him. He can share the photos on Instagram or just keep them private.

Check out some gratitude photo challenges here and here.


Nothing makes you more grateful for your life than helping others, especially those in need. I’ve mentioned before that in one school district, my seniors were required to complete a volunteer project. I loved it because it opened a lot of eyes to suffering within their communities. Students become aware of their privilege and more grateful for the lives they led.

I highly recommend volunteering as a family. Find a soup kitchen or food pantry in your community and sign up for a regular time. Volunteermatch is a great place to start!

For more on teen volunteering, check out my post!

Gratitude Stones

These are a quick craft project! Use stones, some tissue paper or paint, and create an object to help express gratitude. Use them to encourage family discussion or give them as gifts, along with a card of gratitude. Find out more here.

Gratitude Jar/ Wall

Have you and your kids write what they are grateful for on a slip of paper or index card. Place them in a large jar and pull them out monthly, yearly, whatever to reflect. Alternately, post them in a space in the house for all to see.


Let’s face it – going around the table at Thanksgiving and saying what we’re thankful for can be awkward. Especially when you don’t know everyone. However, the folks at Real Simple have put together a fun Thanksgiving Mad Libs. Enjoy!

How do you encourage gratitude at home? Let me know in the comments below!

Related Posts: 16 Gratitude Quote That Will Change Your Life for the Better, Why I’m Thankful for the Teens in my Life, How to Write Thank You Notes, How to Be Kind During Self-Isolation

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