High-school seniors reminisce a lot. As their graduation approaches, they become nostalgic, cling to one another, and recount endless tales from their shared past. While your highly emotional senior is in such a mindful state, you might ask her to consider expressing gratitude to the special people in her life who believed in her when she had lost belief in herself, who comforted her when her dreams were shattered, and who gave her safe harbor when her world seemed out of control. These are the mentors, family members, teachers, coaches, friends, and clergy -- caring souls who inspired your teen, who realized and confirmed her worth and potential, and who never withheld their encouragement and support.
These guiding lights were your teen's allies, and defenders, even after he had made disappointing or bad choices and fallen from grace. They did not blame him or shame him. They put themselves in your teen's shoes, empathizing and giving him a soft place to fall. When your teen got into trouble or lost his way, they reminded him that he was in trouble because he had made poor choices, because he was confused or afraid -- not because he was a bad kid. They championed him and challenged him to take risks and assume responsibilities when fear and self-doubt weakened his resolve. They believed in him totally.
Looking back at your own adolescence, did you have anyone to turn to when your heart was broken, when you felt hopeless, or when you were crippled by low self-worth? If you did have someone who would not let you drown, who breathed courage into you, and who was always there with an embrace and a kind word, then you know how valuable these special people were to you and how priceless they have been in your teen's life. If you had no such person to lift you up, then you know that you dearly missed something and someone that you desperately needed.
We should never assume that others know that we appreciate, value, and love them. We must write our words of caring and gratitude in letters. We must speak our words of thankfulness. Don't assume that people know how much they helped restore your dignity or how crucial it was that their belief in your innate goodness was never shaken. You need to tell them now.
Encourage your senior to give gifts of gratitude to those people who have helped positively shape her life. And while she's expressing her thanks, maybe you might like to thank these people as well. You might even contact someone who helped shepherd you through your adolescence, someone you never thanked for always being there. When I was in college, I attended a testimonial dinner for my high-school basketball coach. I told him that while he had taught me how to become a better basketball player, he had also helped me become a better man. Maybe you and your teen can make sure that those who unconditionally gave you what you needed know how much you treasure them.