Rose Bud Thorn: Great Icebreaker Activity for Interacting with Teens

Whether you’re a parent trying to drum up dinner conversation, a teacher or coach looking for an icebreaker before the lesson, or a therapist looking for a gentle start to a session, Rose Bud Thorn is an easy but powerful activity to get you started off on the right foot.

What is Rose Bud Thorn?

Rose Bud Thorn is a quick check-in exercise that promotes self-reflection, positive thinking, empathy, and gratitude. It can also develop the capacity for identifying areas that need support, and as such is a great way to build community, insight, and social support.

Benefits of using Rose Bud Thorn with Teens

  • Acts as a reflection activity, prompting teens to reflect on their current experience
  • Helps adolescents practice sharing positive experiences
  • Provides opportunities for gratitude and welcoming the feeling of looking forward to something
  • Creates space for teenagers to identify when they need support

Here’s how to do Rose Bud Thorn!

Each person takes a turn sharing their Rose Bud Thorn for the past day or past week.  

A “Rose” is something good that happened

This good be something that went well, something that they are proud of, or something fun they did.

A “Bud” is something that they are looking forward to

This can be anything coming up in the next few days or week that will be positive, fun, or rewarding.

A “Thorn” is something that didn’t go well

This could be a disappointment or something that they could use help with.

Rose Bud Thorn at Home

Here’s an example of how parents can introduce the Rose-Thorn-Bud reflection activity  at the dinner table to build communication and connection with their teen.


My ROSE today is that I had a work meeting that went well.

My BUD is that I have a yoga class tomorrow that I’m looking forward to.

My THORN is that there’s a lot of laundry to fold tonight. Would love help with that if anyone can spare the time.


My ROSE today is that I got my math quiz back and got an 88.

My BUD is that it is almost the weekend and I’m looking forward to sleeping in.

My THORN is that I have a lot of homework tonight. But I can help with laundry for a few minutes.


Thanks, I’d appreciate that. And well done on the quiz!!!  I’m proud of you. Do you need any help with homework tonight?


No, I’ve got it, thank you though.

Rose Bud Thorn is an easy way for parents to stay connected with their teens’ lives, as well as develop good communication and social support skills. This quick reflection activity makes it easy to ask for support, and also to give support or kudos to others.

Rose Bud Thorn in Therapy 

Rose Bud Thorn can be an opening activity in therapy, providing an opportunity to reflect on the past day or week. Here’s how Rose Bud Thorn might look if you’re a therapist using this activity to warm up in session:


Let’s start today’s session with Rose Bud Thorn. I can go first

My ROSE this week is that I got to go for a walk outside yesterday in the sun - that made me really happy.

My BUD is that if this nice weather holds I’ll be able to do some gardening this weekend.

My THORN is that my cat threw up his breakfast all over my kitchen floors - not a great start to my day!


My ROSE this week is that my mom and I have been getting along ok, no fights this week.

My BUD is that I’m going hiking with some friends this weekend.

My THORN is that I sort of freaked out during a Spanish presentation this week; it was really embarrassing and now I’m worried about my grade. 

ping sTherapist:

Thanks for all those updates! A lot there we can work on. Sounds like it would be good to understand what’s been helping you and mom get along a bit better. Also sounds like it might make sense to debrief the Spanish freak out and understand that better. Am I hearing you right? 

In a therapy setting, Rose Bud Thorn can be a great warm-up activity that has the added benefit of learning a little about your client’s ups and downs that week.

Rose Bud Thorn in the Classroom, Club, or Group Setting

Finally, in group settings (like a classroom, a team or club, or even a therapy group) Rose Bud Thorn can be a great reflection activity where teens can practice asking for and giving support to each other. 

Here is an example of how this activity could look:

Group Facilitator:

As we get started today, let’s all share our Rose Bud Thorn for the last week. Remember, when it’s your turn to share your “thorn” be thinking about something you are struggling with that we can all support you in. You might even help us know if you need support or you need solutions. And as you’re listening to your group members’ thorns, be thinking about how you can support. Listen to their ask - are they looking simply for support and care or would they value ideas on solutions. Let’s kick it off!

Teen 1:

My ROSE this week is that my mom and I have been getting along ok, no fights this week.

My BUD is that I’m going hiking with some friends this weekend.

My THORN is that I sort of freaked out during a Spanish presentation this week; it was really embarrassing and now I’m worried about my grade.

Group facilitator:

Thanks for sharing. Let’s get some feedback on your thorn - would you like support or solutions?

Teen 1:

I think just support.

Group facilitator:

Got it! Group, can anyone support them here?

Teen 2:

Aww, that sounds super hard. I’m so sorry! I get really freaked out during presentations too.

Teen 3:

Thanks for telling us. I’m so sorry you had a hard week. 

Teen 4:

No need to be embarrassed! We’ve all been there - it happens.

Group facilitator:

Great support, thank you. Now, who is next with their Rose Bud Thorn?

This group-level use of Rose Bud Thorn can really help teens develop important life skills in (1) asking for help and (2) giving help to each other. It can help adolescents tap into potential resources that would benefit them when challenges arise.

Rose Bud Thorn is a simple but effective exercise to promote self-reflection, communication, and support skills with teens. How will you use Rose Bud Thorn this week?

As with any activity asking teens to reflect on their own ups and downs, doing Rose Bud Thorn with a teen might give you insight into whether they are struggling with more than the typical ups and downs of everyday life. Depression and anxiety are all too common among teens, and some teens may need to seek additional resources or mental health support. 

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April 26, 2023
Amy Mezulis, PhD | Co-Founder & Chief Clinical Officer

Amy Mezulis, PhD | Co-Founder & Chief Clinical Officer

Amy Mezulis, PhD, is a licensed clinical psychologist who received her BA from Harvard University and her MA and PhD in Clinical Psychology from University of Wisconsin – Madison. Dr. Mezulis provides services to older children, adolescents and adults utilizing an evidence-based, cognitive-behavioral approach that includes mindfulness and acceptance-based treatments. Dr. Mezulis has specialized training in mood and anxiety disorders, eating disorders, suicidality and self-injury, trauma, substance use, and adolescent development. She is Professor Emeritus at Seattle Pacific University, where she previously chaired the Clinical Psychology PhD program and continues to supervise doctoral trainees.

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