Often during the month of November, there becomes more of a focus on Being Thankful. However, expressing gratitude should not only happen during the Holidays but every day. The practice of gratitude has amazing effects on your overall health. It is the easiest, most effective way to kickstart happiness and well-being.
It's never too late or too early to implement a daily practice of gratitude for you and your children. Research shows that "kids that are grateful are HAPPIER, more ENGAGED and STUDIOUS, and LESS envious, depressed, materialistic, and prone to violence."
It starts with you! "Kids are more likely to do something if they see adults around them doing it" says Bono. "Being specific with your words helps too because it shows that behavior mattered and why." When we express our gratitude by making eye contact, with sincerity, and by providing an example of how much we are appreciative, the words can be empowering. Children model their behavior from adults. If you thank the grocery clerk for bagging your berries on top of the groceries and taking the time to be careful with your purchase, then your child may see the joy on the grocery clerk's face and do it as well.
Daily rituals go a long way! Come up with daily gratitude rituals for your family to incorporate. "Everyday conversations about the good things and people we have or encounter in life, and being specific with words, helps young children understand the connection between kindness and feeling grateful." It could be a morning prayer of gratitude during breakfast, writing or drawing in a gratitude journal during the bedtime routine, stating one thing they are thankful for in the day during dinner, or playing “a rose, a thorn, a bud”-with each person saying what happened that day that they’re grateful for, what problems came up, and what they’re looking forward to. I personally have been writing in a Gratitude Journal for the past 9 years. I am on my 5th journal and have seen the amazing benefits of ending my day with Gratitude. Each night, while I lay in bed, I write 5 things I am grateful for in the day or in life. Ending my day with gratitude is a wonderful way to think of all the good in my day and I can go to sleep with positive thoughts.
Make Gratitude Fun! Being creative with your gratitude rituals will make it more enjoyable for your children. You can create a fun Thankfulness basket or decorate a Gratitude bowl or jar and write “thank you for…” index cards in it every day after school. Or put a coin in a jar when someone expresses gratitude and when it’s full go out for ice cream or pizza party. You can celebrate gratitude every time you have a meal with a “toast of gratitude”. Children love to “cheers” so simply going around the table saying “Today I am thankful…” or more specific “let’s toast this delicious spaghetti and meatballs mom worked so hard on making” will bring joy to both children and adults. The act of toasting and expressing gratitude before a meal can become a beautiful lifelong habit! On your afternoon walks from school or to the car, look around and name and appreciate all you see. Or make a gratitude door in your home. Each month give a child post-its and they must add at least one thank you post-it each day to the door and if the door fills up you have a Gratitude Celebration.
I can go on and on, but the key is to make it FUN, have the children’s input and PARTICIPATION, become a DAILY RITUAL and MODEL IT ALWAYS. 😊
Thank you for taking the time to read this and for all you do to support your child’s emotional, mental, social, physical, and academic growth!
*Adapted from "Kids with Gratitude: Making Thankfulness Second Nature" by Ronica O'Hara.