Teaching kids about gratitude is an important job. A crucial part of this job is helping children understand that gratitude is more than just saying “thank you.” Children’s understanding of positive emotions can be a challenging conversation, as they are abstract and subjective. Gratitude is about focusing on what is good in our lives. Being thankful for all the things we already have is a daily practice. Showing a child gratitude in practice is the most powerful way to reinforce the definition. Take the time to demonstrate what it means to pause and appreciate the things we take for granted. Developing an awareness of what is good is simple enough when you give this perspective often. Clean water, refrigeration, and a roof over our heads are all things not provided to all humans and can be appreciated more when the focus is on blessings. Modelling daily gratitude with consistency will instill an understanding that gratitude is a positive emotion that can be cultivated.
Bedtime Thank Yous: Before your children fall asleep each night, think of all the happy things that happened to them (and you) that day. Say them out loud, write them in a journal, draw a picture of them, whisper them to your heart, and make this a routine that helps you fall asleep with love and gratitude. (Can also be at the dinner table!)
Thank You Notes: Encourage kids to write thank you notes to important people in their lives, without the receipt of a gift. It is a powerful activity for them to connect with their loved ones in a deeply meaningful way.
Gratitude Glass Jars: A gratitude jar is a great way to infuse gratitude into a group project. Decorate a jar together. Then have each family member put daily entries into the jar. At the end of the month, everyone can share in the family gratitude project by savoring what was appreciated together. This project can be expanded to an annual jar too. Have each family member place one entry of something for which they’re grateful each month. Keep it in a tin for the year.
Gratitude Walks: Going on gratitude walks and having quiet respect for nature is an active way to bring mindfulness and appreciation to the forefront of kids’ minds. Adolescents in particular tend to open up a little more when they’re moving, rather than sitting down to talk, especially with parents. Teaching children to leave nature for others to enjoy, instead of picking flowers and removing pieces of nature from the walk helps kids to respect that nature is for everyone. It helps them savor those moments outside too. Teaching them to leave no trace is a fantastic rule for them to understand that their behavior matters.
Family Gratitude Book: A family gratitude book is a very personal way to bring gratitude into the family. It can be included in family meetings and read aloud. Keep a picture of each family member at the front of a different sections of a notebook. The family can open the various sections of the book and write down moments they have appreciated that family member.