How to help teens connect with the positive

 

What made you smile today?

Generally speaking I’m a pretty positive person. My credo is leave everything a little bit better than you found it–and that includes people.

As a parent, I do my best to instill my kids with a positive outlook on life and encourage them to pass that energy along to others whenever possible. Maybe it involves smiling at a less than pleasant checkout clerk, being patient when you’re stuck in traffic, trying to find the best in someone who totally gets on your nerves or offering to pitch in without being asked.

My tween’s typical response to my somewhat “Pollyanna-like” attitude is usually along the lines of “Mom, get a grip that’s not what real life is like. Stop being so nice!”

She typically scoffs when I cheerfully ask “How was your day?” It’s also been made clear in no uncertain terms that displays of public affection are totally off limits. Her cynicism in the world is fairly typical for a kid rapidly approaching thirteen. Yet there are days when I can’t help but wonder if there’s some dark recessive gene lurking around in our DNA pool that beat the crap out of my optimistic genes. Keeping the negativity in check with her is a constant work in progress. Luckily, I don’t give up easily.

Because “How was your day?” doesn’t go very far, dinner conversations have become our check-in point. Typically meals are peppered with chats about the daily news, discussions over peer-related drama and you’ll never guess what Brittany said to Jovan today.

Most days I try to do more listening than talking.

Occasionally, however, the need to provide some balance to the direction of these mealtime talks takes over and I toss out a question for family discussion.

Just last week the question of the night was, “What made you smile today?”

Immediately, my rather pessimistic tween rolled her eyes and responded with, “Seriously Mom, not again!”Being a skilled trial and error kind of parent, I let it go and chalked it up as another failed experiment.

Much to my surprise, however, the next day when I picked my daughter up from school the first words out of her mouth were….wait for it…. “Mom, guess what made me smile today?”

As a parent, you never really know what’s going to stick with your kids. While the over-the-top stuff that you do is easier to recognize, I’d like to think that it’s the simple everyday stuff in life, like connecting with smiling moments, that really tip the scales. Some days the best you can do is just keep tossing new things their direction and follow their lead.

In a world that often feel steeped in negativity… What’s one way you try to help your children stay connected to the positive?