Gratitude and Teaching It to Your Kids

Mother and daughter at Dear Daughter Workshop


We've heard that gratitude is not only good for our mental health, but our physical health as well. Just like all the other things that are supposed to help us feel better (eating well, exercising, meditating, etc.), we tend to let them slip through the cracks every once in a while.

Thankfully, as we get older, we become more grateful.

Age and Gratitude

In a study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, researchers found that "the experience of gratitude was greatest in older adults and least in middle aged and younger adults," and "that the associations between gratitude and subjective well-being remained relatively constant across the lifespan."

Why is this? As we get older, we realize the value of personal sacrifices, family, money, and it changes our outlook on life. This places us in a perfect position to help our children develop gratitude.

What is Gratitude?

The Raising Grateful Children Project at UNC Chapel Hill found that gratitude can be divided up into 4 parts: noticing, thinking, feeling, doing. Noticing what you are grateful for, thinking about why you received this, recognizing how you feel about it, and doing something in return because of how you feel. Combining these actions leads to lasting gratitude and here are 4 ways that you can help your children do this.

1. Let them see your example

Kids repeat everything you do and say, and although it is hard to monitor everything you do, focusing on gratitude goes a long way. Make it a conscious effort to thank your local grocery store cashier. Be verbally kind and grateful to your partner. Notice things you are grateful for throughout the day and share them with your kids.

2. Talk about it

Creating an open conversation focused on gratitude with your children is easy. Don't overcomplicate things. Talk about it at dinner time. Bring it up when you pick them up from school--did anyone do anything nice for you today? How did that make you feel? Ask your kids what brings them happiness and what they are grateful for. 

Bringing up gratitude one-on-one with your children is ideal and since it will show them that this subject is important to you, they will think it is important too.

3. Make it fun

Make it into a bed-time story. Do activities with them--like our gratitude scavenger hunt activity from the Kalpana Chawla highlight. Make it a daily challenge or game. Have a family gratitude jar. Watch shows that encourage gratitude.

There are so many ways of incorporating gratitude into fun activities. Be creative with it!

4. Thank them

What are the top things you are grateful for in your life? Your family is probably at the top of that list. Well then, why wouldn't you tell them that you are grateful for them specifically? Saying something like, "thank you for being so kind to me today. It meant a lot," could really make an impact. Your children will notice that their actions mean something and they will grow to be action-oriented and conscientious of people's feelings.

Feel free to try everything we've listed or just one, but we hope you are able to try out some of these suggestions and see what having an "attitude of gratitude" can do for your family.

What are some ways that you teach your family about gratitude? We would love to know what else has worked for you!

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