Teaching Kids Gratitude
Next week is Canadian Thanksgiving and as we enjoy time with loved ones and eating our Thanksgiving meals, we’ll be reflecting on what we are most thankful for.
This is one of the best parts of Thanksgiving, but this simple act of gratitude doesn’t just have to be reserved for Thanksgiving; it’s something that can be practiced all year round.
Why is Gratitude so important?
Gratitude is more than making sure to say ‘please’ and ‘thank-you’; it’s a lifestyle centred on being thankful for what we have. It’s focusing on the beauty and abundance in life we all have, and counting our blessings.
Studies on gratitude show that the more grateful we are, the happier we are. The benefits of practising gratitude are felt and experienced emotionally, physically, socially, in academic or career achievements and has even been evident in personality development.
In short; gratitude allows us to truly experience life at its best.
This doesn’t mean we live inside our own heads, ‘blind’ to reality – challenges still arise – rather; it allows us to shape our reality by choosing how we frame what we see around us and to allow our experiences to propel us forward, which ultimately empowers us to live happier lives.
While hard work and commitment produce success, being grateful for what you have opens the most doors.
Because people are naturally drawn to optimistic people. Gratitude increases our ability to network – not only does it draw people in; it also helps us connect on a deeper level. Deeper connections result in deeper relationships.
In addition to this, people who are grateful are more likely to set goals and achieve them, have increased productivity and because they expect ‘good things’ to come their way; they are more likely to identify opportunities when they arise.
And it doesn’t end there.
The practice of gratitude helps us to be more present and mindful of our surroundings and has been found to decrease everything from anxiety to blood pressure. Additionally, people who practice gratitude have been found to fall asleep faster and sleep better.
We all love a great night’s sleep; but who doesn’t love it even more when their little one sleeps through the night and wakes up happy and cheerful?!
How can we teach our Children gratitude?
Counting our blessings is a life-long practice, but there are some quick and easy ways to encourage gratitude from a young age:
Simply starting off by asking your child to name something good that happened during their day is a great way to introduce the practice of gratitude. Perhaps this is something you do over dinner each night; or a special routine you incorporate at bedtime.
Gratitude can be a fairly abstract terms for some children when they first begin and it might be a challenge for them to think of anything; so it’s a good idea for you to demonstrate by going first. Listing an event, person, bodily function (like sight or hearing), skill or possession are all great prompts to help your child conceptualise gratitude.
Continue developing gratitude by modelling it for your child; without asking them to list what they are grateful for; make gratitude a normal part of the conversation by discussing what you specifically are thankful for and why.
Talk about the People in your Life
We sometimes take for granted the people in our lives – teachers, friends, the helpful gas station attendant, the drive-through worker, colleagues and of course family members. Talking about why you value these people – and visibly telling them this in front of your child – helps your child develop social skills and deeper connections from a young age.
Find the Silver Lining
Even challenges are something we can be grateful for. Perhaps they taught us how to do something differently next time; or perhaps offered an opportunity for introspection. Perhaps they allowed us to develop our teamwork skills, or highlighted something to we need to learn more about.
Whatever the challenge is; finding the silver lining helps our child with emotional regulation, which helps them to grow in independence.
Make it your Family’s “thing”
Whether you pin a gratitude list to the fridge; or you start a family gratitude journal, make it part of who you are as a family. Perhaps you’ll be known as the family who gives out thank-you notes when you want to tell someone they are appreciated?
How do you teach your Child gratitude?