The Answer is Not Gift Cards

What are you getting your high schooler for Christmas?

I’m buying gifts for my 4 teenagers and feeling cynical about what they really need. Their Christmas lists are a repeat of last year. Airpods. Make-up. Video games. Gift cards-ugh

But what would really help them? What would help all of us?

More and more, I’m discovering the answer is gratitude.

We’re living in a world of entitlement. Every one of us—but perhaps teenagers the most—enjoys so much abundance. We have mind-boggling access to anything and everything we want and not much buy-in to get it. 

But this isn’t good for us. It’s our human nature to feel entitled. In a life of so much, we keep expecting more and more and more. Let’s help our teenagers see the world through eyes of gratitude. This perspective change is the essential gift we can give our teenagers. 

Here are 4 ways to give your teen the gift of gratitude.

Dinner, Decisions, Dishes—Involve Your Teens

Last weekend, my daughter and I helped host a dinner. Setting up for it took most of Sunday, and she had lots of homework. She wanted to study but agreed to help me. Later, she commented about how much work went into putting on the banquet. As parents, it’s always easier to take care of chores ourselves. But when your teen sees the process—instead of just the product—they can be grateful for what they’re experiencing.

Failure Is Key. Watching your teen struggle when life doesn’t work out is hard. But this also allows them to learn. Fail humbles us. And humbleness is the right mindset to see what is going right in our lives. When your teen bombs a quiz or has a bad game, talk about appreciating the easy successes.

Slow Way, Way Down. Our teens are digital natives who live in an immediate world. Every song, nugget of information, image, Amazon gadget, sushi, and friend is RIGHT HERE. Awesome, right? Not always. Waiting is good because it builds appreciation. Counting down to a family vacation can help your teen savor it when it comes. Waiting for the weekend for privileges like video game time can help them enjoy it more. 

Add In Prayer. Most of us pray before family meals and this is a great time to practice gratitude. Thank You, Lord, for all of this—these burgers from In & Out, the soccer win, the cooler weather, our health, the gift of Jesus. Taking one minute to tell God what you’re thankful for helps us notice the blessings all around us. 

Thank You for All of It

Psalm 107:1-3 reminds us to be grateful for what God gives us. Give thanks to the Lord, for He is so good; His mercy endures forever. Be ridiculously grateful for today. Thanks for the clean air to breathe, for the Christian community of LSA, for hot peppermint mochas, for the family we see at Christmas, and for the perfect plans God has for your teenager. 

Let’s savor the Advent season as we prepare for Christmas. Let’s celebrate the joy of gathering. Let’s appreciate the gift of work and also relish our time to rest together.

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