November is the time of year that we practice gratitude with kids. Young children come home from school with a drawing they made or a list they wrote representing all that they are thankful for. Kids participate in food drives or help at shelters with classmates. Families take a moment to give thanks before digging into a beautiful Thanksgiving meal. And while these are all truly awesome activities, what happens after November? How do we practice gratitude with kids and foster a culture of appreciation and thankfulness regularly in our homes?
In this post, I share 3 simple short activities to help you practice gratitude with kids on a daily basis.
Gratitude and the Benefits
So what is gratitude and why is it an awesome life skill to develop?
Gratitude is an emotion that we experience when we acknowledge something good in life. It’s the act of appreciating what we do have instead of focusing on what we don’t.
Practicing gratitude doesn’t mean ignoring the hard times or when things don’t go as we had wished. It is simply looking at life with a positive lens at some point during the day. It means recognizing that there is always something to be thankful for even when we’re going through difficult moments.
So why should we help children cultivate a regular practice of gratitude?
The obvious reason is that it’s always nice to be around children (and adults) who are thankful. We never rave about those people who seem to take things for granted and are self-centered. Additionally, people, who are thankful and appreciative, always seem a little happier, more positive, helpful and overall more pleasant than the average person (and that’s no coincidence).
University of California Davis psychology professor Robert Emmons is a leading scientific expert on gratitude. He researches the nature of gratitude and its potential consequences for human health and wellbeing. His research shows that the regular practice of gratitude has many physical, emotional and mental benefits.
Those who practice gratitude regularly:
Make progress toward important personal goals
Exercise more regularly and report fewer physical symptoms
Feel better overall and more optimistic about the week ahead
Help and support others more often
Have more positive attitudes toward school and family.
Those are some pretty awesome benefits, but they only come with a regular practice of gratitude.
So how do you model gratitude with children and help them cultivate this awesome life skill?
3 Simple Activities to Practice Gratitude with Kids
Below I share 3 simple activities to make gratitude a daily practice with your family. Before getting started, keep the following in mind:
These practices can be done with very young children.
Unlike practicing an instrument or a sport, the practice of gratitude can be done in minutes and at any point in your day.
You will experience the benefits of practicing gratitude as a family rather quickly. The practice of gratitude can change your child’s mood (and your mood) in minutes.
Practicing gratitude is like any other practice. The more you practice, the more naturally it comes to you. It will go from being a conscious practice to being a natural part of your daily routine.
Give Thanks to Others
Take a moment everyday and make sure to genuinely thank someone. You can model this to children by thanking them throughout the day for their help cooking, setting the table or tidying up. You can also help children give thanks to others until it becomes a natural inclination. Kids can write a note of appreciation to a teacher, family member or a friend. They can call or video chat with grandparents just to let them know they appreciate them and are thinking of them.
Acknowledge Goodness in your Day
It’s important to acknowledge the good parts of your day as a family. Over dinner, you can discuss the good things that happened throughout the day. You can share a happy memory, an act of kindness or what you are feeling thankful for (big and small). This is a great way to get the whole family involved in the practice of gratitude, as well as, really hear what is going on with your loved ones.
Like adults, children benefit from quiet times of reflection during the day. These are great moments to practice quiet gratitude with kids. Older children may enjoy writing what they are grateful for, while younger children can express thankfulness in a drawing. You can also model to children how to quietly think about all the people and things you are thankful for. You can do this by first saying what you are thankful for out loud and then let younger children know that you are going to give thanks quietly. In this way, you are teaching children that gratitude can be an inward activity as well.
Imagine the POWER of teaching children the practice of gratitude at a young age!
I would love to hear from you. How do you practice gratitude in your family?
Keep well, S