How Gratitude Can Heal Within Families


family having lunch

Substance abuse and mental health issues impact not only the individual person, but they impact the entire family. When your adolescent is beginning to heal, it is important for your family to heal as well. Gratitude is both a quality and a state of mind that can help heal families impacted by adolescents with behaviors related to addiction and mental health issues. When everyone works together to improve upon reflecting on the things they are grateful for as well as expressing gratitude to others, the healing process is enhanced, and the quality of life improves for everyone involved.

Gratitude Validates and Strengthens Family Bonds

One of the most obvious ways to express gratitude is to notice and genuinely thank someone for qualities they have, something they have done, or something they have given to you. Outward expression validates the family member and helps them to feel appreciated and loved. When someone feels appreciated for who they are or something they have done for someone, they are increasingly likely to show positivity and kindness to others.

For the person who expresses gratitude, there is also increased satisfaction and happiness. They, too, are more likely to express feelings of thankfulness again. Additionally, when people are happy, they are more likely to treat others kindly in general. By validating and showing appreciation to one another, goodwill is increased between family members, and family bonds are strengthened.

Creating Opportunities to Show Gratitude

When a family is in crisis, it can be difficult to find things to be thankful for. Furthermore, developing habits of gratitude can be difficult when there is so much stress within the family. In primary school, teachers teach children to give each other “warm fuzzies.” They will use cotton balls or pom-poms and place one in a jar each time they notice someone expressing kindness or gratitude toward one another as a visual representation of their words and actions.

While this exact concept may not work with adolescents, here are some other ideas for modeling and implementing gratitude within the home:

  • Acknowledge and validate efforts made to improve, such as communication, cooperation, good attitudes, and more
  • Remember to say “please” and “thank you” for simple daily gestures, chores completed, etc.
  • Use an erasable marker on a whiteboard or mirror to write genuine compliments for each other
  • Write sincere notes and leave them where they will be found
  • At family meals, have each member say one thing they are grateful for
  • When emotions begin to escalate, take a deep breath, count backward, and find something to compliment or thank the other person for to diffuse the tension
  • As a part of nightly routines, verbally express something you are thankful for to one another
  • Get involved in mental health and addiction recovery programs or other service activities as a family to display gratitude

Gratitude Journals Family Challenge

Within therapy and treatment, gratitude journals are a common assignment that is given. Reflecting and noting what we are grateful for helps to improve our mood, outlook, and mindset. Focusing on what we have on a daily basis is a great way to heal personally.

Taking the challenge as a family to institute a habit of journaling daily can help to increase positivity and good feelings within the home. Initially, you can make it a challenge for which there is a family reward after a week, a month, or more. Making it specific and measurable, such as each of you writing down three to five things each day, will help build a habit that can last long after the challenge is completed.

Compare and Contrast Your Present and Past

One of the ways that gratitude heals is to be able to compare and contrast where you are with where you have come from. When negative family memories come up, family members can reflect on and contrast where everyone was mentally and emotionally during those difficult or traumatic times and how much they have learned from those experiences. This growth and progress can also increase harmony within the home. Being grateful for every step of recovery as a family can also create a sense of unity. Acknowledging this growth as a family helps everyone heal together.

Personal Reflection, Outward Expression

By consciously choosing to reflect each day on the things that you are thankful for, you are more likely to express gratitude outwardly. When even one person in your home makes this change, it can shift the mood in the entire family. Expressions of anger can eventually be replaced with expressions of kindness and gratitude. Creating a more positive environment enhances better communication and ultimately can strengthen family relationships.

Healing from addiction and mental health as a family can be enhanced by adding more gratitude into your daily lives. As you find more opportunities to demonstrate kindness and gratitude within the home, you can achieve improved harmony, communication, and growth together. Adolescents do not necessarily express gratitude naturally, so parents and family members can model what it looks like to be kind and grateful. Sustain Recovery involves the family in the healing process. Our extended residential care helps adolescents transition back into the family during treatment to prepare them for life afterward. Our staff understand that your child is not defined by substance abuse or mental health issues; they are symptoms of and coping mechanisms for the inner pain that they are experiencing. We help them address issues and heal so they have healthier coping mechanisms and increased self-worth. Call us at (949) 407-9052 to find out if our Irvine, California program is right for your family.