On Christmas Day I logged on to Facebook to wish my on-line Friends all my love and was immediately struck by how many teen girls I am connected to were either:
A – listing off all their Christmas booty with no mention of family or friends, or sense of thankfulness for what they had
B – complaining in a ridiculous fashion about their gifts e.g.: “FML, Mum got me the black Iphone not the white” (talk about a first world problem!)
C – whinging that Christmas “sucked” / was so boring.
In response, I posted this comment on my profile:
It’s made me sad to see a number of my teen friends whinging on here that Christmas feels lame now they’re older, or that it sucked. I’ve heard similar things at home too. You know what? You only get out what you put in to Christmas (and life). If you just sit back and do the gift inventory of everything you’re getting, then yep, now that there’s no magical Santa element, it may feel all a bit flat. Once you move past the little kid stage, the only way to really FEEL the Season is to be Loving! Kind! Grateful! And try not to fall into the trap of doing the “Family Inventory” either i.e: because we don’t have a big family, we are not a “real” family, or because Mum is single, we are not “normal.” Families come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes, as we get older, we even invent our own through our friendships.
So how about this. Get off Facebook and hang with YOUR family – in whatever form it is in, at this point in time.
And try saying thank you – with heart.
This attracted 117 likes in an hour and some of the most animated comments from parents and teens I’ve ever had on my wall! The general consensus from parents, and confession from teens, is that young people are not always very good at saying thank you, or at even knowing how to demonstrate gratitude.
Just after Christmas, I was fortunate enough to have gone on a trip to the U.S.A. with my teen daughter. In an attempt to try to help her appreciate how thankful we both should be for this adventure, I asked her to join me in using this as an opportunity to not only show our gratitude through going out of our way to be kind to others, but to explore the nature of giving thanks. And there’s plenty of evidence that this is valuable parenting work.
According to a 2012 study presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Grateful teens are happier, Researchers also found that teens who had a positive outlook on life are well-behaved at school and more hopeful than their less-grateful peers. Study researcher Giacomo Bono, Ph.D., a psychology professor at California State University, explained why being thankful and hopeful matters: “More gratitude may be precisely what our society needs to raise a generation that is ready to make a difference in the world.”
Our first stop was Texas and here we visited the Thanks Giving Square and Chapel in Dallas. I loved the fact that right in the middle of a bustling city was this quiet, light-filled sanctuary established to inspire those who visit to think about all they have, all they’ve been given, and to perhaps reflect differently upon obstacles they have faced and see the lessons in these darker moments too. I was particularly touched by some of the children’s art work which reflected the things they were thankful for:
In New York I was incredibly moved by the notes and gifts of thanks that are still being left daily for the brave men and women who stepped up during the dark days after September 11. Directly opposite ground zero is St Paul’s Chapel. Despite the extensive damage to the surrounding buildings after the Twin Towers collapsed, this 1800′s church remained untouched and became a refuge for the rescuers who slept in it in order to maximize their salvage efforts.
Sometimes, particularly after events like the recent shooting in the U.S., I despair at humanity and think we are doomed. Other times, like when I walked through this building, I think we are a bloody incredible lot. It’s said 30,000 people arrived at the site to assist from all over the world. As an example, by the end of the first week, one thousand iron workers from across North America had arrived to help. I cried at how touching this site was and at all it represents about kindness and connection. I added my note of thanks to the hundreds being left throughout the Church.
This year I am going to investigate gratitude, and seek ways in which we can foster it in our children too.
In the image below I wrote a note to add to those left at the Thanksgiving Chapel in Dallas reflecting on what I am most grateful for.
I’d love to hear from you – what are you thankful for?