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How Can I Help My Teen Develop a Healthy Body Image?

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Helping Teens with Negative Body Image

Negative body image is common among teenagers and can lead to a variety of problems, including low self-esteem, depression, and eating disorders. The way a child or teen views their own body can affect their well-being and their relationships with others. As a parent or guardian, it’s important to understand the signs and symptoms of negative body image in teens and how you can help your child overcome it. There are immediate, actionable things you can do right now to support your teen and promote a healthy body image.

Understanding Negative Body Image in Teens

Negative body image (or body distortion) is a distorted perception of one’s body, often accompanied by critical thoughts and feelings about one’s appearance. In teenagers, negative body image is heavily influenced by societal expectations, peer pressure, and media messages. School closings and the shift to online learning in 2020 intensified the reliance on digital media to define our value based on appearance.

Here are some signs and symptoms of negative body image in teens to look for:

  • Constantly talking about weight, appearance, or food
  • Comparing oneself to others
  • Avoiding social situations or activities due to body shame
  • Engaging in excessive dieting or exercise
  • Spending excessive amounts of time in front of the mirror
  • Expressing disgust or shame about certain body parts
  • Anxiety or depression related to body image

With the right tools and support, you can help your teen develop a healthy body image and build a positive relationship with their body. Educate yourself to understand the risk factors and healthy habits to build in place of a negative body image.

Contributing Factors to Negative Body Image

  • Genetics: Some individuals may be more prone to negative body image due to genetic factors, such as a predisposition to anxiety or depression.
  • Social media: The rise of social media has led to unrealistic beauty standards and constant comparisons with others, which can contribute to negative body image.
  • Family dynamics: Family members who are critical or preoccupied with appearance can contribute to negative body image in teens.
  • Peer pressure: In this era of Tiktok, Instagram and YouTube, teens often feel pressure from their peers to conform to unrealistic beauty standards, which can negatively impact their body image. Filters used on social media platforms contribute to these idealized standards.
  • Trauma or abuse: Traumatic experiences, such as sexual abuse or bullying, can contribute to negative body image in teens.

It’s important to understand that negative body image is not a choice, but rather a complex issue that requires compassion and support.

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Helping Your Teen with Negative Body Image

As a parent or guardian, you play a crucial role in helping your teen overcome negative body image. Here are some strategies you can use to support your child:

Encourage open communication

  • Create a safe space for your teen to talk about their feelings and concerns.
  • Validate their emotions and avoid minimizing their struggles.
  • Avoid criticism or judgment and focus on understanding their perspective.

Scroll to the end of this article to find suggested conversation starters.

Provide a safe and supportive environment

  • Promote a positive home environment that values diversity and body positivity. Creating a safe space for your teen to talk about their feelings and concerns is crucial. Listen actively without interrupting or minimizing their struggles. Avoid criticism or judgment, and focus on understanding their perspective. Let them know that their feelings and experiences are valid and important.
  • Avoid commenting on your child’s weight or appearance, even in a seemingly positive way.
  • Encourage self-care and stress-reducing activities, such as mindfulness or meditation.
  • Promote healthy habits, such as regular exercise and balanced nutrition.

Educate yourself and your teen about body positivity and diversity

  • Teach your child that bodies come in all shapes and sizes and that there is no “ideal” body type.
  • Encourage them to challenge beauty standards and media messages that perpetuate negative body image.
  • Celebrate diversity and promote inclusivity in all aspects of life.
  • Learn about body positivity and share resources with your teen.
  • Though much attention is focused on girls navigating body image issues, boys also face the same pressures to meet a certain ideal male standard.

Help your teen develop a healthy relationship with food

  • Avoid using food as a reward or punishment.
  • Encourage your teen to listen to their body and eat when they are hungry and stop when they are full.
  • Avoid labeling foods as “good” or “bad.”
  • Promote balanced nutrition and avoid restrictive diets or fad trends.

Encourage healthy habits such as exercise and self-care

  • Encourage regular exercise as a means of improving overall health and wellbeing.
  • Focus on the positive benefits of exercise, such as increased energy and reduced stress, rather than weight loss.
  • Encourage self-care activities, such as journaling, taking a relaxing bath or engaging in a hobby they enjoy.

Identifying triggers and avoiding negative influences

  • Work with your teen to identify situations or people that trigger negative body image thoughts and help them develop strategies to avoid or mitigate those triggers.
  • Encourage your teen to limit exposure to social media or other sources of negative body image messages.
  • Teach your child coping strategies, such as positive self-talk or mindfulness, to manage difficult situations.

Conversation starters for social media discussions

Remember to use low-key language that your teen can relate to and feel comfortable with, and encourage them to express their thoughts and emotions openly. Being non-judgmental and empathetic can help create a supportive environment for discussing body image and social media with your teen. It’s often better to raise an issue with an orientation of I statements, as in, “I read” or “I saw” and “I felt” rather than lead with a direct question, especially in the first conversation. You want to communicate that you are a sounding board and not there to judge how your teen is using social media (unless your teen is using it in a risky or dangerous way).

Some of these conversation starters may help to begin. Customize in your own voice to fit your family and parenting style.

Top suggestion: The media itself is often the best conversation starter of all. Lead into this video “Victoria’s Secret.”, in which the musician (Jax) created an anthem by calling out media manipulation of body image. “I know Victoria’s Secret / Girl, you wouldn’t believe / She’s an old man who lives in Ohio / Making money off of girls like me / Cashing in on body issues / Selling skin and bones with big boobs…”

You may also want to start with the technical aspects of editing images and videos (which is much easier for your teen to talk about) and then feel your way from the how they do it to the why they do heavy editing.

Other ideas to try:

  1. “I felt so weird yesterday when I saw a video with that influencer, ________________. She didn’t look real. How do all those Insta models seem to get those ‘perfect’ bodies? “
  2. “I read this post about Josephine Livin in which she shows all the face and body morphing tricks that some influencers use. Do you think social media puts too much emphasis on looks and appearance? How does that affect how you see yourself?”
  3. “Have you ever felt like you need to keep up with the beauty standards you see on TikTok or Snapchat? How does that make you feel about your own body?”
  4. “What’s your vibe (parent, this may be too self-consciously slangy – you be the judge) when you scroll through social media and see people who seem to have it all together in terms of looks? Does it ever make you feel self-conscious?”
  5. “I was reading this article about the pressure boys are under to maintain this impossible standard of looks on Instagram. Do you feel like there’s a lot of pressure to look a certain way on social media? How do you handle that pressure?”
  6. “What do you think about the filters and editing that people use on social media to alter their appearance? I don’t know how they handle the pressure to look perfect all the time”
  7. “Do you think that social media gives a realistic or fake idea of beauty? How does that impact how you see yourself?”
  8. “I wonder how teens navigate the expectations and beauty ideals that social media promotes. Does it ever make you feel like you need to change how you look?”
  9. “Do you think that most videos and images are authentic or edited? Is there a way to tell the difference?”
  10. “How do you maintain a positive body image in a world where social media can sometimes create unrealistic beauty standards?”

Seek professional help when necessary

Be proactive in seeking professional help if you notice persistent signs of negative body image, such as changes in eating or exercise behaviors, withdrawal from social activities, or persistent low self-esteem.

Helping teens create a healthy body image requires a multi-faceted approach that includes education, open communication, creating a safe space, promoting healthy habits and seeking professional help when needed. By being supportive, understanding, and proactive, parents can play a crucial role in promoting positive body image and helping their teens develop a healthy relationship with their bodies.

For further reading about the impact of media and body image in children and teens, check out this Common Sense Media Research Brief.

Teen Slang: ‘Bruh Moment’ & 66 Other Expressions Worth Knowing: A Parent’s Guide

by Samurai Mom

Are you often confused by the stream of insider expressions coming from your kid? You’re not alone. Teen slang is notoriously slippery. Quickly changing jargon is designed to keep outsiders guessing. As hip as we think we are, the outsiders are always gonna be us.

You can become somewhat fluent in teen-speak, but you may look silly doing it. Also, by the time you achieve an advanced beginner level, they’ll change the entire language. When a teen slang expression comes to be understood by too many humans of parent age, the straight use of the word dies a quick death. 

“Old” slang may linger on to be used ironically or with nostalgia by those schooled in its short history.

Our teens are sad that I’m speeding the demise of “bruh moment” and all the rest of their insider lingo in the act of researching and writing this post. They’ll forgive me eventually – right?

By the way, I’d never use these expressions outside my own house. I can be a complete goofball at home. To use them in my classes would mean 25 sets of eyes rolling in synchronicity and losing any shred of credibility that I’ve managed to cling to. While our own kids tolerate it with pity and amusement, few teens will enjoy parents horning in on their private language.

You may want to keep this on the DL (down low). I’m embarrassed to say how proud I am that I knew that one already.

Still, it can be helpful to be able to decode these terms to understand what’s going on in your teen’s life. You’ll hear some of these expressions and see others in text, if you do spot checks of your teen’s phone or texting apps (it’s a personal decision; no judgment here).

The Urban Dictionary is a fantastic source to define mysterious slang of the moment. Just be prepared with some deep yogic breathing or a glass of wine before you explore – you’ll probably need it.


    1. AF Acronym for As F–k, which means extremely, or very much.
    2. ASAIK – as soon as I know
    3. Basic – mainstream, stereotypical or unoriginal. This term’s getting dated, but still seems to be hanging tough.
    4. Big mood –  means that what you’re going through is relatable; is often paired with a meme, .gif or image to show how you’re feeling (circa 2018 and still used ironically).
    5. Bruh moment – The bruh moment is a bad situation in which it would be appropriate to express disappointment, shock, disbelief or empathy. Often shortened to “Bruh…” and delivered under the breath. It’s an updated version of bro, or brother.
    6. Burn – an insult
    7. Cancelled – resurrecting something from a person’s past and ruining their career with the scandal. Or to stop supporting/interacting with someone because of past or current behavior.
    8. Can’t even – so overwhelmed by strong emotions of disgust/anger/sadness that I can’t discuss this now.
    9. Cap – it’s a lie.
    10. Creeper – literally, someone weird or shady
    11. Chill – you should just relax already. This is dismissive, but you already knew that from the tone.
    12. Cringe – what my teens are doing right now as I do my in-house research on slang. When something is over-the-top embarrassing, it’s cringey or cringy.
    13. DAE – does anyone else….like vanilla cream frappuccino?
    14. Dead/Weak – something is so funny that I’m dead/weak with laughing.
    15. Drip – stylish; great outfit, shoes, jewelry, etc. (ironic).
    16. Dub – short for a win or success (dub-el-yew – W)
    17. Extra – something is over the top, excessive.
    18. F – a way to show respect for someone with bad news. Ex: I just failed my Psych test. Someone drop an F in the chat.
    19. Fam – family. Obvi.
    20. Finsta – secret, second (or third?) Instagram account
    21. FIRE – That’s hilarious or that was terrible.
    22. Fit – short for outfit, usually used to compliment, like, “Cute fit” (close to ironic use).
    23. Fleek, Point – (on fleek, on point) perfect, right on target (circa 2014, now used in a mocking way). 
    24. Flex – to show off or something that’s being shown off (ironic use)
    25. FR – for real
    26. ICYMI – in case you missed it
    27. Heard – confirmation that someone is aware of what has been asked of them; a deep understanding of the topic being discussed.
    28. HIFW – how I feel when…I’m triggered by my boyfriend looking at another girl.
    29. High key – opposite of lowkey; definitely, really mean this in a big way.
    30. HMU – hit me up. Ex: Hit me up for coffee tomorrow.
    31. Ghost – to be a no show; stop calling, answering the phone or otherwise associating with a friend, girlfriend/boyfriend or employer.
    32. GOAT – greatest of all time
    33. Go off – used ironically. Ex: If you’re gonna do that, go ahead. But it’s not gonna be good.
    34. Savage – could mean anything, but seems to approximate to ‘notable’. Ex: Those burgers were savage, Mom.
    35. Shook – surprised, startled, shocked
    36. LMIRL – let’s meet in real life (but not with a creeper).
    37. Lowkey – can mean somewhat, slightly, in a way that you wouldn’t expect. Can also mean that it’s a secret, or something that you’re not proud of. Ex: I lowkey hate it here.
    38. Netflix and chill – code for come over and make out or have sex. I’ve been informed that this is dead and that it’s used exclusively by out-of-touch millenials who write Instagram sketch comedy. No offense intended to any millennials who write Instagram sketch comedy.
    39. OG – acronym for the original gangster, or the original version of something.
    40. Over it – I’m done with it; it’s just too much to deal with.
    41. No Cap – for real, I’m telling the truth.
    42. Period – the end, the final word or the conclusion.
    43. POS – parents over (my) shoulder.
    44. Preach – you’re preaching to the choir or yes, I completely agree with what you just said.
    45. RBF – resting b**ch face. Ex: I’m not mad, this is just my RBF.
    46. RIP or F – not literally rest in peace, but more like, I feel sorry for you or that’s dead, it’s over or it’s no good. Pronounced rip, not R.I.P.
    47. RN It is the short form of Right Now.
    48. Salty – irritated and speaking harshly or snappishly, possibly using profanities.
    49. Shady – sneaky, suspicious, untrustworthy
    50. Shook – scared
    51. Simp- someone who’s willing to do anything for someone because they like them. 
    52. Slaps – something good, according to the Urban Dictionary, good as f***
    53. Slay – to do really well or succeed.
    54. SMH – shaking my head (in disbelief)
    55. Snatched – fashionable, great looking (2018)
    56. Stan – means a stalker-fan, someone who’s really obsessed with a celebrity. According to the Urban Dictionary, this one is ancient, circa 2017. Used ironically now by some teens. Can also be a verb, as in, “We stan a queen”. i.e., I like your Instagram post and I’m hyping you up.
    57. Sus – short for suspicious.
    58. Taking the L – take the loss; come to terms with it.
    59. Tea – gossip; sometimes associated with Kermit the Frog sipping tea meme, as in “That’s none of my business”
    60. Thirsty – Being desperate for something. This is used ironically now.
    61. Throw hands – to fight.
    62. Throw shade – to undermine someone, put them down, make them feel bad.
    63. Vibe Check – acknowledging when someone’s life is going well.
    64. Woke – smarter, more evolved or savvy. Often related to social justice issues.
    65. Yeet –  it means to throw something with some force or to agree vigorously. Humorous, used with nostalgia. 
    66. 420 or 4/20 –Marijuana
    67. 9 (the number 9) – Code for a parent is watching.

If you’re struggling to keep up with what your teens are saying, learning common slang is a good place to start. Even if you don’t actually speak the words, the context of a situation will be clear if you understand what they mean. 

How Can You Keep Your Teen Focused While Learning at Home? 10 Ways to Engage Your Middle Schooler Longer in Academic Work

by Samurai Mom

This fall is going to be like no other. Parents and schools are making decisions about how children will experience their school day based on current health data, but we all know that the course may change direction quickly. No matter what your school model – in-person with homework, distance learning, hybrid or straight up homeschooling – there’s one constant: your student’s attention needs to be on learning the content.

So, how can you keep your child focused while learning at home?

  1. Create a schedule together
  2. Help them understand the relevance of the material.
  3. Ask them to paraphrase the directions.
  4. Break down the assignments into manageable chunks.
  5. Vary the types of assignments.
  6. Set a timer and set a work goal.
  7. Plan on frequent breaks with exercise.
  8. Try tactile fidget objects.
  9. Use music for studying.
  10. Be sure that everything needed is within reach.

1. Create the Schedule Together – Pinpoint the Best Times for Learning Different Subjects

Involve your middle schooler in dividing the day into blocks for learning. The more they control the experience, the more invested they are in their own learning. Also, your child likely has some insight into when they learn best and for how long.

Would they like to begin the day with independent reading and then ease into math mid-morning? Even if their proposed schedule seems a little unorthodox, give it a spin to see if it works. Middle schoolers will often invest a lot of energy to prove their point. This can boost their commitment to getting the work done during the times they proposed.

2. Why do I Have to Learn This? Connect the Dots to Help them Understand the Relevance

Talk about the real-world context of the work. How can the knowledge be applied outside the textbook? Sometimes middle school assignments appear unrelated to the knowledge and skills that adults need to function in the world. Because of this, students often ask why they have to learn a skill. And nobody – not even the biggest edu-geeks among us – likes to learn isolated sets of facts without a purpose. 

If you can relate the lesson content to a real problem, it will help them invest more in the learning. 

For example, if you’re learning percentages, use minilessons which use real world examples from shopping. Students can calculate discounts, sale price, sales tax, and final cost of items. Saving money to be able to buy more things that they want is likely to keep their attention.

3. Check Understanding of Directions & Visualize Challenges

Before you set them loose on a task, ask them to paraphrase the directions. It may feel silly to do with an older kid, but many frustrating moments can be averted just by making sure they understand the assignment. And by the way, this isn’t just a middle school thing. I’ve worked with many high school and college students who seek extra help without first reading directions.

You can go a step further by asking them to predict the toughest part of a task and how they can overcome the challenge. This visualization sparks the metacognition of the task itself. In other words, thinking about thinking helps them mentally rehearse strategies and resources that will help when they get stuck.

Having a plan can strengthen their ability to focus for longer periods, which is a major goal of middle school!

Essential School Supplies!

4. Chunk Assignments 

If your child struggles to stay on task through a long assignment, break up the work into smaller chunks. This will provide a clear idea of what needs to be done and will give a sense of completion for each piece.

This is a common strategy used for kids with attention and learning challenges, but it can work for every kid. Instead of answering 20 questions at once, start with 10 and give the option to keep going or finish the remainder later or even the next day.

If you’re beginning a research task, break up the steps. Here’s example of what it might look like to chunk the beginning of a research project:

Day 1 – brainstorm topic ideas and narrow to a specific topic in which they have strong interest.

Day 2 – create a set of broad and narrow questions about the topic and locate an introductory article in a credible source.

Day 3 – read and annotate/take notes on the introductory article and revise the questions to reflect the new learning. 

You get the idea. Again, here’s another chance to let your middle schooler take ownership of the learning pace. 

Customizing projects to student interests and chunking each part is a great way to increase focus over longer periods of time.

5. Vary the Instruction

Kids and adolescents are hard-wired to seek novelty and variety. If you have control over the curriculum, consider varying the format of instruction as much as possible. Worksheets are useful in some ways – in moderation.

But asking your middle schooler to slog through worksheets as the primary method of instruction is deadly to focus and long-term learning

That said, not all worksheets are created equal.

This graphic from Jennifer Gonzalez of the Cult of Pedagogy website distinguishes between what she calls a busysheet and a higher level learning tool:

Changing up instruction or coaching to engage teen’s needs for novelty, variety and real-world application will keep their attention more than any other single thing you can try.  

To avoid straying into busysheet territory, here are some examples of ways to introduce, review or extend material. 


Create a YouTube video to explain a concept, process or procedure. Create an advertisement. Brainstorm ideas that relate to a concept or connections to other concepts.
Create a comic strip to explain a concept. Go on a fact-finding mission (new knowledge) and create a chart to hang on the wall. Add questions that you think of while researching. Write a paragraph to summarize the most important points in a video or article.
Annotate an article to remember important points and connect to prior learning. Write a skit/role play. Play a game to review material.
Create a game to teach others the content. Respond to learning in an interactive journal. Construct a model demonstrating content in a different format.
Create a list of broad and narrower questions to learn more about a topic. Revise the list as you understanding grows. Create a blog, and write a series of posts based on new learning. Learn fractions with baking.
Use virtual reality to experience an event or place through technology. Measure and calculate real objects, Complete a hands-on science experiment.
Go on a field trip to experience something IRL (in real life). Discover geometric shapes out in the world.

6. Set a Timer

For middle schoolers, 30 minutes of focused work is enough before your student takes a break. If your child struggles with attention issues, aim for a shorter block, maybe 20 minutes at a time. Let your kid take the lead on setting a focus goal and the timer. 

7. Plan on Frequent Breaks with Light Exercise

After your teenager sets and meets a goal for time on-task, they should reward themselves with a mini-break and some activity to get their body moving. This could be as simple as a short walk with the dog or dancing around the house to the music of their choice.

8. Try Fidget Objects

Though the research on the effectiveness of fidget items has been mixed over the past few years, some teachers and counselors swear by using small manipulatives like fidget spinners, stress balls, or seat rubber bands – even sitting on yoga balls – to help keep kids keep focused. This is highly individual. It will work like a charm to channel the excess energy for some kids, but manipulatives may become distractions for others. You could give it a try with lower cost manipulatives or make a DIY version to test them out.  

9. Use Music for Studying 

Maybe you’ve seen the “music for studying” kind of videos on YouTube. I use these videos for sticking with a batch of grading for an hour or more when I really want to put it off another day.  I’ve experimented with what types of music works best to play in the classroom to motivate students. My own informal conclusions are that music needs to be played low enough to have a conversation over it and have a consistent beat. Music without lyrics seems to have an edge for concentration. If students enjoy the genre, it keeps them more engaged in the work.  

10. Have Everything Needed within Reach

It is oh-so-easy to fritter away time sharpening a pencil, getting that snack and wandering around looking for the book I need to get to work…finally. And that’s me, an adult with a sense of purpose and an equally strong desire to procrastinate. You don’t need to imagine how this works with a distractible tween or teen. You’ve already seen it and that’s why you’re reading this article, right?

Have everything that your student needs within easy reach and you can minimize some of the procrastination. Here are some tips to design your home classroom  for focus and productivity.

This school year is sure to be a challenge, but some of these ideas can help get your teen focused and working more independently. It may help to know that every teacher I’ve worked with uses most of these strategies to encourage classes of teens to get the most out of our time together. If it works for a class of 25+ restless middle schoolers, it may just work for you!

How Can I Homeschool My Child if I Don’t know the Subject? A Guide to Homeschooling Challenging Subjects (Like Math!)

by Samurai Mom

Whether you’re a seasoned pro to homeschooling or brand new to teaching your children at home, you may wonder how to tackle more advanced subjects which challenged you in your own student days. In fact, lack of confidence may be the single biggest worry that parents have when considering homeschooling.

So, how do you homeschool your kid(s) in a subject that you don’t know?

  1. Review your state and district curricula.
  2. Evaluate your strengths.
  3. Build a base of support in homeschool programs, tutors, and cooperative partnerships with other parents.
  4. Enroll your homeschooler(s) and possibly yourself in an outside course.
  5. Assess that your student is progressing at grade level.

Read on for some concrete strategies and resources to help! I’ll use the example of high school math, but this process will work with any subject. The order of these steps is flexible, though you’ll want to get a sense of your comfort level with the curriculum as early as possible.

1. Review Your State Homeschooling Laws and District Curricula

What’s required by your school district in this subject? This is your baseline and it will determine what your homeschooler will need to learn. Every state has different requirements for homeschooling, ranging from very structured guidance to much greater leeway for parents.   

Focus on the content and skills laid out in your state and district curriculum. While you don’t necessarily need to be an expert teacher of the subject yourself, you should understand what needs to be learned. This could include big shifts in the way the subject is being taught in schools. 

Understanding what needs to be covered and how curriculum has changed lets you be an informed consumer of a homeschool program that covers everything your student will need as they move up through grade level content.

 If you are considering a re-entry to public school at any point, a solid, organized program will increase the odds that they won’t miss any skills. Plus, it’s easier to document and include in a file for a school system!

If that’s your (eventual) plan, you’ll want to keep an eye on the Common Core State Standards. Forty-two states use these shared English Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics standards. Even if your state doesn’t use them, they can be a good framework to keep your homeschooler on track.

To stick with our math example, the Common Core State Standards for Math call for teaching fewer concepts at each grade level, but help kids learn those concepts on a deeper level. In science, the Next Generation Science Standards upends the traditionally taught science skills for a more blended, conceptual approach to include engineering and other science, technology, and math (STEM) skills. 

2. Evaluate Your Strengths

If you struggled with a subject yourself in school, you may feel hesitant about teaching it to your teen or even just helping them get over the rough patches. And there will be tough spots. The trick is to figure out ahead of time how you can line up resources to shore up your skills. 

Do you have a bit of time to get ready?  Start by evaluating your strengths. If you’ve decided on a curriculum, work through the first unit or two and skim other units to refresh your knowledge and skills. You may remember more than you think. Besides, walking a mile in your homeschooler’s shoes will always make you a better teacher.

If a large chunk of the subject is incomprehensible, you may need a broader plan. Read on to the tips below! 

3. Build your Base: Homeschool Cooperatives, Tutors, Troubleshooting

The best way to cover all your bases in homeschooling challenging subjects is to put the right resources in place. That way, you can ease into a guide-on-the-side role rather than the sage-on-the-stage. Or you might consider yourself as a coach rather than a teacher. 

That takes some pressure off, right?

Troubleshooting whether your kid needs to fill in some knowledge gaps or enrichment to soar ahead, some combination of these ideas can work to troubleshoot or enhance a curriculum:

Join a homeschool cooperative –  by joining with other families, you can diversify your teaching expertise as a group. You might be knowledgeable about American History while an engineer mom or dad can teach math at more advanced levels. Just be sure that everyone has the same expectations for the class. To be sure that your student is getting the right content, pacing and level, you should have a curriculum and agree on goals for the class.

Line up a tutor for online support. Schedule the most challenging work for your teen in the early part of the day and make sure that your tutor will be available and/or responsive to questions during this time.

Work with your teen to improve their resourcefulness and problem-solving as a teacher, I can tell you that the ability to identify and fill gaps in their own understanding is a powerful skill to learn for all students. Can they turn to an excellent (and free) platform like Khan Academy and watch a video or work through some exercises to help them understand? Or for K-8 levels, subscribe to MobyMax Family to help identify and fix learning gaps for about $8.00 a month.

There’s a balance here in helping your kid learn to become more independent in pushing through challenging material. By reviewing your state standards and searching out the resources ahead of time, you’ll be better able to help your teen keep working through the tough spots.  

It shouldn’t be so challenging that your teen gives up in frustration, or so easy that they whip through it and get sidetracked with non academic activities. Finding the right level is an ongoing process for teachers in a classroom, and now for you and your homeschooler to find the balance.

4. Enroll Your Homeschooler (and Yourself?) in an Outside Class

It may seem obvious that you can turn to an outside class to shore up gaps in your own knowledge, but new homeschooling parents often feel the pressure to do it all themselves. Here are some options which let you fill more of a guide role than the primary teacher.

Enroll in a structured online program like American High School, a fully accredited K-12 school that allows your student to progress at their own level. The programs are taught by certified teachers and will customize minilessons to address areas of challenges. 

For extra support, there are classes on Udemy which let your student pop in for review in some especially tough concepts, or take a more comprehensive class.

How about an online or on-ground community college class? As long as your homeschooler meets the academic requirements and maturity level to function in the class, even younger teens may be enrolled on a case-by-case basis.

Learn with your teen – it does require some vulnerability, but [take deep breath here] admitting to your teen that you need to brush up on skills to keep pace with them is the ultimate way to model your own lifelong learning. 

And lifelong learning is really the goal all along.

Enroll yourself in the same course and find out how it feels to be in your teen’s shoes. If your teen cringes at this togetherness, find your own program to strengthen your skills. An Udemy class just might be the secret weapon you need to catch up. 

Or maybe it’s been awhile since you studied math and it was never your strong suit to begin with. If you need to review at more of a middle school level, start with a straightforward book like this one: Everything You Need to Ace Math in One Big Fat Notebook: The Complete Middle School Study Guide 

Won’t your homeschooler be surprised when you chime in with a possible strategy when they get stuck?

5. Track Your Student’s Progress – How are They Doing?

Evaluating your homeschooler’s knowledge is an ongoing part of homeschooling. The best assessments give you knowledge about where the challenges lie and help troubleshoot small problems which can turn into bigger problems down the road. This is especially true with math and science content which build on prior knowledge of concepts. 

A note about testing: In my 20+ years as a teacher, I have watched (with much frustration) overtesting of students (and teaching to the test) become routine, despite evidence that it reduces student engagement in learning. Students adopt a mindset that they need to learn material to pass the test, and then are free to forget all that crammed knowledge.

Your decision to homeschool gives you the chance to opt-out of the overtesting trend to a degree.  You may need to provide copies of assessments to show the Department of Education in your state the skills you covered. But your ability to customize a homeschool program to fit your kid means that your student can use the concepts to solve real-world problems and needs. 

Tests and quizzes can be useful when balanced with a lot of variety and authentic use of skills. Mini-assessments will help make sure that your student is learning at a good pace AND to identify the areas of challenge (this really is the benefit of quizzes – they let you and your student change up the next lessons to get more review in the harder parts).  

Yes, that trig test can give you useful information about how effective your homeschooling is for this particular subject this month. But it’s only book learning until it’s applied. 

So back to the real-world problems: What would DaVinci do? 

How about showing their progress in trigonometry (slope/rise/run) by also building a shed roof at the right pitch to drain snow and water? Or use trig to indirectly measure the height of things outside like trees or buildings?

This is learning that will stick and teach life skills at the same time!

The Importance of a Thorough Curriculum – Don’t Rush Your Choice

When choosing a program/curriculum, give the assessment and communication of progress a long look before you commit to it. If you’re not initially comfortable with teaching a subject, you’ll be depending heavily on a curriculum to guide you in the right direction.

Though it will take some extra preparation on your part, your homeschooler can excel in subjects that are taught by others and/or reinforced with tutoring and online classes. Learning along with them may even strengthen your relationship.

Bottom line: you don’t have to be a whiz to help your kid master a difficult subject.

Follow us on Pinterest to see our Happy Homeschool|Middle School Teacher Board. It’s updated daily with new activities and freebies!

Help us reach our goal of 1,000 Pinterest followers by January 1st, 2021! Why? Because goals help me get up in the morning. : )

How Can I Set Up a Homeschool Classroom? You Can Create the Best Home Learning Space Before September

by Samurai Mom

With the Coronavirus resurging in many states, a growing number of parents are exploring homeschooling or enriched distance learning for the first time. Schools are waiting to hear from us. Are you sending your teen back to school? 

We’re all wrestling with that choice as the news from the CDC changes every day. And then there’s this: When considered as a whole, homeschooling can be daunting. If that’s all that’s standing in the way of your decision, you can make it easier by focusing in one piece at a time, starting with the physical layout. Once you can visualize you and your child working in the space, other parts like the curriculum seem to fall into place.

So how do you organize your homeschool space? The area in which you create for home learning should be:

  1. Welcoming, comfortable and distraction-free
  2. Organized with storage and areas for different types of learning
  3. Rich in multi-format resources.

Whatever your experience level with teaching at home, here are some tips to create or upgrade your family homeschool/distance learning space so that you can all concentrate better on the teaching and learning. 

Full disclosure: as a middle school teacher, I lean towards creating a bit more of a formal classroom vibe (with emphasis on mini-lessons, shorter activities and movement breaks), because that’s what’s worked for me. In every classroom I’ve created and lesson I’ve taught in K-8, my goal has been to communicate that learning is important and also fun. A space that is organized and prepared also communicates to your kids that this is the place we show up to do our best work, whether we feel like it or not. : )

Others aim to keep their home classroom more casual, and that may serve your family too. You’ll find what works for you as you go, but it never hurts to start more structured and ease up later. It’s much harder to go the other way.

Anyway, that’s what they taught me in my Teacher 101 class, when my instructor growled,  “Don’t smile [at the kids] until Christmas.” That’s not my style at all by the way,  but here was my takeaway: 

Communicate your seriousness of purpose so that kids will respect you and the process. While you create your unique homeschool, you’re likely to have a transition period in your kids’ eyes from parent to parent/teacher. This transition can be smoother with well-planned, engaging lessons that are customized for learning styles and interests.

Start with the environment.

The Space

First, evaluate which area makes the most sense in your house to create your homeschool, considering available storage, traffic patterns, family routines and ease of multi-tasking for you while your homeschooler is working. You may be limited to the corner of your dining area or have an entire room devoted to your homeschool. 

The Basics – a Room Layout that’s Welcoming, Comfortable and Distraction-Free

Learning takes place in many ways: through individual study and reflection, through watching, through movement and practice, through writing and discussion, etc. Effective homeschools have a balance of area configurations that are easy to change up with the workflow. One of the biggest “nice-to-haves” is to be able to honor your kid’s preferred learning styles and move easily through different learning activities. This calls for multiple places to learn in your homeschool. 


All these ideas are scalable. Depending on the size of your homeschool and budget, this could be as simple as a desk, a table and an area in a corner for quiet activities.

At minimum, plan for:

  • An individual workstation for each student with easy access to reliable technology like a Chromebook. Storage of school supplies, textbooks and other current learning materials should be within easy reach. 
  • A comfortable chair and desk at the right height. For frequent movement throughout the day, students will benefit from either a stationary and/or mobile setup paired with an exercise/yoga ball.
  • A table to meet with you for a mini-lesson, work on a project, to play a game, have a writing conference, etc.
  • A quieter and cozy area (like a beanbag in a library corner) to read, reflect in a journal, take a break, draw, etc.

Visuals/Instructional Wall Space – Use what you have! If you lack actual wall space, you can get creative with hanging displays instead – string a clothesline or twine across the room and use clothespins or binder clips to attach the important stuff.

  • Whiteboard – Post directions, questions on a good-sized whiteboard or two. I like the ones with magnetic backing so I can change up the display easily. Whiteboards are handy while you introduce new material or your homeschooler reviews concepts. If you’re on a budget, make your own whiteboard with this $20 DIY project.
  • Create or buy anchor charts to support your curriculum visually – These highlight procedures, core concepts and best practices that help your student focus on the important stuff. An example of an anchor chart is an editing list of writing conventions.
  • Daily schedule homeschools thrive on routines. The structure helps you and your student(s) keep on track, and encourages independent progress when you aren’t available.
  • World/country maps and a globehelp make interdisciplinary curriculum connections to geography clearer by providing current political and physical maps.


  • High speed Wifi – Obviously, a reliable and fast connection is critical to online learning. When things don’t go as planned (hiccup in the router, power outage, computer fail etc), plan back up activities and lessons that are print-based to keep your homeschooler learning. Also, WiFi boosters and extenders can help you get your WiFi signal to more distant rooms and levels of your home or office space. A booster like this one can extend and strengthen your signal so that you have fewer dropped connections.
  • Computer/Mac/Chromebook within range of an outlet to prevent loss of charge interruptions.
  • Smartphone – there are many ways to use a cell phone in your instruction. You can set up guidelines about when and how, so that the phone is a learning and engagement aid instead of a distraction in your homeschool.
  • Large display monitoryou can use this to project a screen – computer, device or phone –  to show slideshows, documentaries, Ted Talks, educational YouTube videos, Zoom/Google Meet sessions and your homeschooler’s work.
  • Printer – while you may plan to deliver your instruction mostly digitally, there are many, many ways to enrich your program with printed materials and just as many reasons that you should. 

Here are a few: to annotate articles; review with flashcards; print out lessons and activities that you’ve located on the internet, backup when digital learning is not possible, etc.

  • Calculator once your homeschooler has progressed past basic math operations, you’ll need a calculator. Calculators are widely used in public school from 5th grade forward, and are especially important in solving algebra, geometry and calculus problems Students who are proficient with using calculators will score better on standardized math tests which require them, like the PSAT, SAT and ACT. 

Organization – How Much Storage Do You Need?

It’s easy to underestimate how many physical objects are used in a learning program, even if you’re planning on using digital resources. If you’ve been supporting distance learning this spring, you’ve had a taste of it. But the difference between emergency distance learning and full-on homeschool can feel overwhelming. Before you were supporting a teacher’s lessons. Now you’re creating the lessons.

It’s best to get a bit more storage than you think you’ll need. 

Draw a Line in the Sand

Even if you share space, it’s important to draw a line between your homeschool day and your family time. Organized storage helps you keep some separation, especially if you’re able to put supplies away in covered storage at the end of the day.

When I homeschooled my kids in elementary reading, writing and Spanish, we did everything at the kitchen table. It was convenient to supervise them and review while I cooked and folded laundry but it quickly became a mess! I struggled to keep the books and papers out of the pb and jelly goo left from lunch. Our word wall stretched the floor to ceiling and the length of the kitchen. The fridge was buried under so many layers of work on display that they fell to the floor every time someone peered into the fridge. Flash cards and manipulatives, popsicle sticks, markers and little whiteboards teetered on the baker’s rack 24/7. 

There was no separation between school and home. Even when the kitchen was clean, it was cluttered all the time. If you are brave enough to try homeschooling in your kitchen, the chaos may soon drive you crazy. Try to find another space if possible.

Aim to acquire storage for everything organized by academic subject or format shelving, drawers, and baskets can all work well. Be sure to leave some empty space because you’ll acquire more materials as you find your groove as a homeschool.

Follow our Pinterest Boards Happy Homeschool|Middle School Teacher  & Homeschooling on a Budget for lots of homeschool organization and design inspiration! Just don’t fall victim to FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) when you see what other families are doing. Your homeschool can be as simple or as complex as you wish, and it takes time to build it.

Rich in Multi-Format Resources

The core of a successful homeschool is providing the right resources, at the right level at the right time.

And it’s no easy feat to do this, as your kids are changing and growing every day. Their interests will change, their ability to think abstractly will grow and their motivation may be inconsistent. This all happens while your homeschool curriculum that you’ve chosen essentially remains the same (except for adaptive math programs). That means that it’s up to you to bridge the gap between where your kids are (that day or week) and the curriculum. Will they need reinforcement activities to master the material, enrichment to make it more challenging, alternate assignments to keep up the motivation? 

In other words, the more tricks you have up your sleeve to get to the same learning objective, the better.

Curriculum – so the quality curriculum that you choose will provide many resources, but will never be a truly self-contained program. You’ll keep tweaking it and adding enrichment to fit your values, your kid’s interests and learning styles.

Build a Home Library – independent reading drops off sharply in middle school and high school. You can head off that possibility in your house by providing a variety of books that are interesting and relevant for your homeschooler. See Teen Doesn’t Read? 9 Parent Ninja Moves to Get Them Reading for a step-by-step plan to keep books in their lives. 

Here are some low-cost ways to stock your library with a fresh selection of awesome books for your homeschooler:

Thriftbooks – millions of titles and free shipping! Most books under $5.00 in gently used condition.

Better World Books – extensive collections of used books that are a bit pricier – $6.00 and up. Also offer free shipping.

Goodwill and Savers – in-store shopping. Books are usually under $5.00 and paperbacks can be bought for $1.00 – 2.00. You’ll want to assess the potential risks of visiting consignment stores and put any books you buy away for a few days (or leave them in your trunk!) to be sure they’re safe to use. This is also true with the other vendors, but mailing already builds in some time.

Public Libraries – Homeschools have always used libraries to enrich curriculum and support independent learning. Many libraries are now doing contact-free book circulation.  You may be able to reserve books, games and other materials ahead of time in the online catalog.

Manipulatives/3D Models/Games/Puzzles – Adolescents crave novelty and fun! Supplement a traditional textbook or online exercises with a variety of activities to achieve the same objective. For example, here’s a great game activity to teach kids how to create in-text citations. Or learn American History through a combination of text book, a research project, and playing games, Hands-on activities are not just for elementary school; all ages learn better when experiences reinforce learning.

Command Center/Teacher AreaThis is where the magic starts.  And the magic is YOU. Remember to support yourself as the teacher with an environment that allows you to bring your best self to your homeschool.

You’ll need:

  • Depending on the specific laws in your state, you’ll need a homeschool portfolio or some other format that documents your student(s) progress. The types of documents required may include a letter of intent, attendance records, instructional hours, tests, grades, and other assessments, transcripts, curriculum used, reading lists, etc
  • a binder of lesson plans for each subject, 
  • Daily, weekly, monthly schedule
  • notebooks and folders, 
  • a teacher copy of each textbook, 
  • a dedicated computer just for your use.

Planning is essential for a successful homeschool. I’ve experimented with many combinations of digital and printed planners and I always come back to the spiral bound teacher books with vertical printed days of the week like this one.  

Teacher library – to continue building your homeschooling knowledge, collect books of instructional ideas and how to grow an independent learner. It is arguably the most important thing that you will teach.


Here’s a list of supplies that your teen or tween may need, depending on your curriculum choice. 

To save money, buy just the basics now and revisit stores in early October – many supplies will be deeply discounted by then. Or you can avoid the in-store visit by finding sale-price supplies online.

  • Paper – lined, graph, and colored construction
  • 1 Subject Notebooks
  • Folders
  • Glue
  • Pencils 
  • Paint & Brushes 
  • Chalk and Chalkboard if you like a retro feel in your homeschool (mini ones are fine)
  • Expo Dry Erase Markers (Get thin ones for personal whiteboards and thick ones for the wall whiteboard)
  • Markers/Crayons, etc 
  • Scissors
  • Binder Rings (Great for keeping flashcards organized or illustrating a progression like mitosis).
  • Post It Notes (These are essential for notes/annotating – kids can use these to mark pages books and notebooks- literature, textbooks, teacher manuals, etc)
  • Index Cards and Box (Used for many things, like vocab or math, fact memorization, speaker notes, games etc.).
  • Wooden Craft Sticks (so many ways to use these in education)
  • Laminated wall maps of the United States and World 
  • Globe
  • Mini Dry Erase Board for each child (these are useful for quick review, call and response, working on vocabulary and facts, etc)

A note: Consider that it takes about 4 years for a new teacher to really grow into their professional selves and that they never stop learning. The same will be true of your homeschooling. While there are a million different ways to set up a successful homeschool (and a classroom) and none of them will be perfect, especially the first year. You’ll see images of homeschooling families on social media, everyone smiling and engaged in a tidy classroom, going on field trips, siblings walking hand in hand along a path as the sun shines above.

Homeschooling can seem so idyllic, but a photo op is not the daily reality. Here’s the truth – learning is messy! So be patient with yourself and keep expectations reasonable as you begin this journey with your kids.

Using the resources, your curriculum, your homeschooler feedback and trial and error, you’ll find your way, even on the days everything goes wrong. If you decide to homeschool long-term, every year will feel a bit smoother.

Hopefully, these tips have given you the confidence to get started. You can do this!

Follow our Pinterest Boards Happy Homeschool|Middle School Teacher  & Homeschooling on a Budget for lots of homeschool organization and design inspiration. Please help us reach our goal of 1,000 followers by January 1st!

9 Secrets to Raising a Grateful Teen

We want our kids to grow into positive, well-adjusted adults who function successfully in society. Teaching them to display gratitude, not entitlement, is one of the challenges of parenting teens.

 How can we help our teens to develop a sense of gratitude? Research shows that gratitude is connected to overall life satisfaction and that teens can develop gratitude as a life skill. Parents should model appreciation, encourage teens to reflect on what they receive, teach good manners, inspire teens to volunteer and limit time spent on social media.

In this article, you’ll find practical suggestions for helping teens to avoid the pitfalls of feeling entitled. Gratitude can be learned.

Parenting Teens who Display Gratitude


Teen girl riding a bikeTo help our teens grow into happy, well-adjusted adults, we teach them values that will contribute to their happiness. Consider gratitude as a frame of mind that will accomplish this goal. 

In a well-known TED Talk, monk and scholar David Steindl-Rast shares, “It is not happiness that makes us grateful; it’s gratefulness that makes us happy.” According to Steindl-Rast, we naturally feel grateful when we realize that a gift has been freely given to us. He goes on to say that every moment of every day is a freely given gift that provides us with the opportunity to experience life. It’s this opportunity that is the real gift. 

Steindl-Rast’s philosophy is probably too deep for many of our teens, but he shares an important point that we can pass along. If we can teach teens that they are recipients of gifts from the world around them, rather than being entitled to everything they experience, we can help them to develop a grateful frame of mind.

Gratitude is the antidote to entitlement.

Of course, we adults can work on experiencing gratitude, too. After all, we’re the models that our teens see every day. And they’re always watching us, even when they appear oblivious. We can inspire gratitude in our teens through a number of small acts.

  • Spending quality time with our teens when we focus on them as individuals
  • Modeling gratitude by saying “thank you” or sending thank you notes to others
  • Helping our teens to safely establish their own autonomy
  • Emphasizing our teens’ strengths as ways to help others
  • Showing gratitude as a regular part of family life in the home

Here are 9 secrets to raising a grateful teen.

1 – Show Gratitude to Your Teen


Show your teen that you’re grateful to have them in your life. Express your thanks for the efforts they make. Whether it’s earning a good grade on schoolwork, completing a chore at home, or being kind to an older neighbor, you can find something to thank you teen for every day. 

This helps your teen in 2 ways:

  1. When you show gratitude to your teen, you’re modeling gratitude as a normal part of day-to-day life. Say “thank you” or do a little extra favor for your teen on a regular basis. Modeling is the most successful form of teaching. If your teen grows up in a home where gratitude is modeled, she will be more likely to develop gratitude on her own.
  2. When you show gratitude to your teen, it helps them develop a sense of self-worth. According to researcher Robert Emmons, Ph.D., “Grateful people have a higher sense of self-worth.” Seeing people work together in networks of friends, families, and communities, helps teens develop gratitude for others who contribute to their well-being.

2 – Share Stories of Gratitude with Your Teen


Dinnertime conversations are a great way to introduce a theme of gratitude. If you don’t get to sit down for dinner together, you can have these conversations in the car on the way to soccer practice or in those few quiet moments before lights-out bedtime.

  • Teach your children about their family members. Let them know about their ancestors . . . where they came from and the hardships that they might have endured. Learning about family history teaches teens that none of us do everything on our own. We all owe a debt of gratitude to those who came before us and to those who currently support us.
  • Have conversations where you talk about people and things that you’re grateful for. Did another driver pause to let you into traffic this morning? Did a coworker help you finish an important project today? Share those little favors with your teen, and let them know that you’re grateful for them. Encourage your teen to think of things they’re grateful for, too.
  • Share stories from your own teenage years. Tell you teen about a favorite coach, teacher, or grandparent who helped you in a meaningful way. Let them know that you will always be grateful for that person’s influence on your life. Ask your teen if they have similar stories from their own experience.

3 – Teach Good Manners


Good, old-fashioned manners never go out of style. If you’re parenting teens, you’ve been teaching good manners for more than 10 years, now. Teaching your teens to say “please” and “thank you” and to show respect and consideration for others is an ongoing parental duty. Here are some ideas for encouraging teens to display gratitude.

  • Thank the clerk who waits on them at a store.
  • Thank the server who brings their meal in a restaurant.
  • Thank their teacher on the way out of the classroom.
  • Thank their coach at the end of practice.
  • Thank their siblings and parents for small kindnesses at home.
  • Reciprocate with kind gestures such as holding a door, or stepping aside to let others pass.

Expressing appreciation for their teachers is a simple, but powerful act for a teen. After 20+ years of teaching, I’m still surprised when a student thanks me for a lesson. It’s that rare. But every time I hear it, I’m energized and pass that enthusiasm along to my next class of students. 

Of course, simply saying “thank you” doesn’t guarantee that your teen has truly developed an attitude of gratitude. But showing good manners goes a long way toward establishing positive habits and character traits that will build gratitude over the years.

4 – Spend Focused, Quality Time with Your Teen


Your teen might give you the idea that you’re the last person he wants to spendtime with. That’s O.K. Do it anyway. When you do get a chance to spend time with your teen, make it count.

  • Put away your phone and turn off the TV. Focus on the conversation with your teen.
  • Try not to be judgmental. Try not to jump in with advice. Let your teen talk, and stay focused on what they’re telling you.
  • Let your teen know that you’re grateful for their spending time with you and that you value what they have to say.
  • Ask your teen to help you with a project around the house and then thank them for their help.
  • Ask you teen to help you run errands or perform tasks for family members or neighbors, and then thank them for their help.

5 – Encourage Your Teen to Keep a Gratitude Journal


Research shows the value of keeping a gratitude journal. Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough conducted a study where they had subjects write down the things they were grateful for. After 10 weeks, the group that participated in gratitude journaling showed significantly more optimism and happiness. Writing in a gratitude journal 1-to-3 times a week produces the most long-lasting effects.

  • Encourage your teen to keep a gratitude journal. They can write one thing they’re grateful for every day or make a list of 3-5 things at the end of every week.
  • Keep a gratitude journal of your own and share it with your teen. Compare notes at the end of each week.
  • Create a group gratitude journal on a chalkboard or cork board in your kitchen or family room. Invite members of the whole family to write or post things that they’re grateful for on a regular basis.

6 – Make it Routine to Write Thank You Notes

Holidays and birthdays can be chaotic with large gatherings of friends and family, noise, and fun. Although you might be exhausted at the end of those celebrations, it’s important to keep track of gifts and to insist that your teens write thank you notes. Ignore the naysayers (including your teens) who say that thank you notes are a lost art. The act of composing a note on an actual piece of paper forces us to slow down, to reflect on the experience of receiving a gift.

  • Have your teen write a list of gifts they received and who gave them each gift.
  • Provide note paper, envelopes, addresses, and stamps.
  • Monitor and remind your teen to get the thank you notes written and sent within a specified time period (1-2 weeks, perhaps).

Letters of thanks are important at other times, too. Encourage your teen to write letters expressing thanks to anyone who helps and supports them.

  • Write a letter of thanks to your coach at the end of the season.
  • Write a letter of thanks to a favorite teacher at the end of the school year.
  • Write a letter of thanks to a grandparent or family member who contributes to a college fund, vacation, or activity fund.

Boy scouts in a group7 – Encourage Your Teen to Use their Strengths to Serve Others


Civic service is closely tied to developing a mindset of gratitude. Most high schools offer clubs and service organizations that provide opportunities for teens to volunteer in their communities. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and 4-H are well-known organizations (outside of school) that encourage teen volunteerism, too. Encourage your teen to seek out opportunities where they can contribute their time and energy toward helping others.

  • Is your teen strong and good with tools? Encourage them to do yard work or make minor repairs for a grandparent or an older neighbor.
  • Is your teen outgoing and a natural leader? Encourage them to head up a food drive to contribute to a local food bank.
  • Does your teen have a knack for entertaining toddlers? Encourage them to volunteer in the church nursery.
  • Is your teen a computer whiz? Encourage them to volunteer at the local library, helping younger kids with internet searches.

When we help others, we naturally develop a sense of gratitude for all that we have been given. Your teen can develop a sense of self-worth and gratitude as they volunteer to give of themselves in service to others.

8 – Monitor and Limit Social Media


Social media can be a mixed blessing. Sometimes it’s a connecting, supportive influence. Yet it can also be toxic for teens in the way that it encourages surface comparisons of lifestyles, criticism or even bullying. It’s also tough to find the balance between monitoring your teen’s social media while honoring their right to privacy. That line is different for every parent I know.

Depending on how your teen uses it, social media might also counteract the development of gratitude.

  • Social media can reinforce a sense of entitlement. “Everybody else has . . . (the latest shoes, purse, outfit) . . . so, I deserve it, too.”
  • Too much time spent on social media can cause teens to withdraw from real-life interactions and relationships.
  • Social media is too often focused on consumerism. The message is that to be happy, you must have more, more, more. This attitude is the antithesis of gratitude.

Some tips for monitoring social media that some parents have used include:

  • Investigate parental control apps and set one up on your teen’s phone. Check in occasionally to monitor your teen’s social media posts.
  • Set and enforce a limit on screen time.
  • Establish a ‘phone contract’ with your teen. If you are paying for the phone, then your teen must observe certain rules and limitations in order to keep the phone.

9 – Share Movies that Celebrate Gratitude


Do you have an occasional family movie night?  Share a film in which the characters demonstrate gratitude in a dramatic way. The following movies are suitable for teens and tell inspirational stories of gratitude. Many are available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus and Hulu.

  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (ages 12+)
  • Mrs. Doubtfire (ages 12+)
  • Freaky Friday (PG)
  • It Could Happen to You (PG)
  • It’s a Wonderful Life (PG)
  • Life is Beautiful (ages 13+)
  • Lion (ages 13+)
  • Lost Boys of Sudan (13+)
  • The Blind Side (PG 13)
  • Can You Dig This? (ages 14+)
  • Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport (ages 14+)
  • Wild Rose (ages 15+)
  • The Revolutionary Optimists (PG documentary)

Follow up after the movie with a discussion about how the characters displayed gratitude. What were they grateful for? Did they have lots of good luck, money, and possessions? Or something else? What events in their lives led them to be grateful? Try to get your teen to talk about gratitude as they saw it portrayed in the movie.


If you’re like most of us, parenting teens is one of the biggest challenges of your life. Nobody ever thinks they get it 100% right. But if you’re interested in raising a grateful teen, the fact that you’ve read this far means that you’re already on the right track.

Continue to emphasize a sense of gratitude in your daily home life and interactions with your teen. Even when they don’t appear to be listening to you, it will sink in.

And don’t forget to thank them for being the wonderful kids that they are.