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Learned Optimism: Tips for Teaching Teenagers to Be Positive

written by: Julia Bodeeb • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 1/5/2012

Optimism is an important skill for teenagers to learn, especially in today's turbulent world! Help your students learn how to be persistent, even in the face of failure.

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    Teenagers tend to be a bit too dark and pessimistic at times. They have too much angst about social issues, peer pressure, grades, and the future. This lesson will give high school students tips to handle bouts of angst and move on and maintain a positive mindset as they set their goals for the future.

    Teen suicide rates are too high. It is important to give teenagers ways to help themselves be optimistic about the future. There has been an epidemic of teenager suicides in the town where I live this year; very sad to see teenagers in so much despair they choose death. Bullying in real life and cyber bullying add a lot of stress to the lives of teenagers.

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    Read Articles About Strategies for Success

    Share articles with students that show how those with career success achieved their goals. Include some articles that discuss the failures and setbacks people had along the road to success. Talk about the importance of persistence and believing in your dreams.

    Give student volunteers an opportunity to discuss what they learned from the articles. It is usually very interesting for students to see the unusual paths many people take to success. Teenagers tend to think that careers are stolid and unchanging; however, the reality is that many adults have different careers over the course of their lifetime. Thus, being positive, being open to change, and following opportunities are all important skills for teenagers to learn.

    Include some articles by major athletes in this lesson. Athletes tend to give good motivational advice and lessons about discipline and persistence. Students are also quite interested in learning more about the athletes they admire.

    Athletes also give excellent advice about learning how to handle failure. This is a very important skill for teenagers to learn. Reading articles about how even the most famous, successful people had plenty of failure on the path to achieving their dreams helps teenagers learn that everyone has setbacks. Getting advice via reading articles about the need to be optimistic and persistent is very helpful for teens.

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    Write a Letter to Yourself About Positive Traits, Goals, and Positive Thinking Strategies

    Have students sit in groups so they may brainstorm ideas about their positive traits. Have students tell each other what their positive skills are such as: well organized, smart, good sense of humor and so on. Each student will create a list of at least 10 of their positive traits. When they have their positive traits listed they should also write at least three positive thinking strategies they will use during difficult times.

    Then each student will start to compose a letter to themselves about their goals for the future. The students will be as specific as possible about their goals, listing job titles for their career, discussing where they want to live after they finish their education, what kind of life they want to have, and what their specific dreams are for their future.

    Inform students that the letter should be at least four paragraphs long. Give them a writing rubric indicating that the letter should have a clear opening, body, and conclusion.

    Analyze student progress on this project by giving a participation grade for their input during the discussion about the articles. Also give a writing grade for the letter. Check their adherence to the writing rubric and also grade for logic and overall writing skill.