Considering we’re all stuck at home during this COVID-19 crisis, posting about thankfulness feels important. Without thankfulness each of us will spend our time wishing for things to be normal. Since this day only happens once, there’s no sense in focusing on what you don’t have. Gratitude is one of the best ways to feel happy, have others love being around you, and enjoy your life. If you can teach your children how to feel grateful, they will enjoy their days far more than someone who is entitled.
The first thing you must do is teach them to work. Teenagers who understand that work equals getting things they want/need actually have much higher self-esteem. It seems backwards. It’s easy to understand how a lot of parents believe if their teenager is provided every opportunity that they as parents had to struggle for, their teenagers will go father than them in life. It’s a baffling experience for a lot of parents when they discover all their good intentions had the reverse effect. Teenagers who learn that they get a cell phone when they pay a piece of the bill, or have their parents fill their gas tank after they wash mom or dad’s car, are extremely grateful kids. They don’t assume their parents owe them things just because that’s what other kids have. Instead, they are overjoyed when their parents do help them out, but also very proud of themselves for earning their way. During COVID-19 this looks like teens making a significant contribution to the household chores.
Concepts are caught, not taught. You must model gratitude. If you are someone who complains about your situation all the time, there’s a good chance you make little comments in front of your kids. On the other hand, if you constantly mention the ways you know you’re blessed, your children learn to be thankful in all things. For example, let’s say you’re struggling with money. You could complain about all the things you don’t have, or worse still, make embittered comments about people you envy. Or, you could point out the things you do have while also talking about the hope you have for a better future. Your children will internalize your attitude and live it out.
Lastly, don’t compare. It doesn’t matter who you are, someone has it better than you do. That’s because exactly ZERO people have a perfect life. Only God is perfection. The rest of us are flawed. When imperfect people work to create a life, there will be imperfections in the results. Please don’t begrudge this. It leads to the comparison trap. We don’t need to be complacent, which means that we’ve stopped striving for better, but we do need to be content. Content people are happy people; people who compare are miserable.
My hope is that you have a thankful attitude even through COVID-19. I also hope you use this time to teach your kids how to be grateful in everything they go through in life. Be very clear that as Pastor Rick Warren would say, nobody should be thankful FOR all things (You don’t need to be thankful for cancer). However, you do need to be thankful IN all things because there is always a blessing, not matter how small.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT