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The Holidays and Practicing Gratitude

Navigating the holidays in a mentoring relationship can be tricky. As Seedling mentors, we are sensitive to the fact that some households may not celebrate holidays we hold dear. This reality might be due to religious practice, financial distress or family strife. The safest and most effective open-ended questions on the topic are: “What do you think you’ll do during the break from school?” or “What are you looking forward to during the break from school?” Your mentee’s choice to share about holiday traditions or memories (happy OR sad) can be a springboard for rich conversation. As always, we let the mentee take the lead.

At this time of year, mentors often have questions about giving gifts. This year due to the virtual nature of mentoring, we are asking all mentors to forgo any thought of a small token gift to their mentees.

The holidays can provide other kinds of opportunities to enrich your relationship with your mentee, like having a meaningful conversation about gratitude. Research confirms that focusing on strengths can improve a person’s life considerably. Cultivating gratitude, a practice that focuses on strengths, can reduce the stressors associated with the holidays or life in general, for youth as well as for adults. Christine Carter of the Greater Good Science Center found that youth who engage in gratitude practices experience gratefulness more overall, they have higher grades, are more satisfied with their lives, and are more integrated socially. These teens also show fewer signs of depression, feel less entitlement, and are more motivated to help others. At this stage in their development, independence and mastery are important for adolescents, so they may not heed advice from adults about why practicing gratitude is beneficial. However, because belonging and generosity are also important, mentors can role model gratitude, helping mentees recognize their own wisdom and ability to practice gratitude in their lives.

Notice the Good Things in Your Life

Notice the Good Things in Your Life

  • Each day, think of 3 things you are grateful for.
  • Start a gratitude journal.
  • Practice gratitude rituals.

Savor the Feeling of Gratitude

Savor the Feeling of Gratitude

  • Pause
  • Notice
  • Absorb – in the moment

Express Gratitude

Express Gratitude

  • Express it with words
    • Tell them
    • Write them
  • Show it with actions
    • Return a favor
    • Kind action
    • “Pay it forward”

As the mentor, it’s important to be persistent in helping the mentee build habits. It is in the teen job description to be resistant after all. Understand that youth will need to struggle with feelings of entitlement and dependence, like all feelings. Last, and most important, focus on helping them become experts on themselves.

Excerpted from 3 Ways to Practice Gratitude, TeensHealth from Nemours
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