As parents, we all know the importance of teaching our kids to say thank you. If motherhood had a manual, it would be written right there: Make sure your kid has manners. But gratitude goes a little deeper than that. In fact, gratitude is one of the healthiest human emotions.
What exactly is gratitude?
gratitude [ˈɡradəˌt(y)o͞od] noun The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
Yes, teaching our kids to say thank you creates a foundation for having good manners, but showing gratitude is proven to have many more benefits. A few of those include increased self-esteem, higher levels of happiness, and reduced depression. I don’t know about you, but after the year we’ve had, these benefits look extra beneficial to me.
For these reasons and more, I really wanted to be intentional with helping our kids create good habits of gratitude this year. During a time when it was easy to focus on all the things they could no longer do, I wanted to help them find joy in the things they could. Things changed so quickly and drastically, so it was only natural for them to concentrate on all the things they could no longer do or have. Not only were they no longer going to school, which meant they weren’t seeing their friends, but they weren’t even seeing their grandparents, who they’re very close to. I completely understood why they felt the way they did, and I wanted to let them know it was perfectly fine to feel all those feels, but I didn’t want them to live in those thoughts. I wanted them to know that they had so much to be thankful for even if they couldn’t see it at the time.
Tips for Teaching Gratitude
There are many ways to teach your children gratitude, and they don’t have to come in the form of some huge gesture. There are so many options out there. Just find something that works best for you and your family. For instance:
- Take a moment during dinner to have everyone share one thing they are thankful for — it’s a great way to ease gratitude into your daily routine.
- Random acts of kindness are also good ways to practice gratitude.
- Are you into crafting? You can try thankful crafts. A simple, easy craft would be thankful hearts. Create large hearts out of whatever material you like such as paper or felt. Then have your children decorate them and gift them to whomever they are most grateful for.
The 3-Minute Gratitude Journal
For our family, I went with a gratitude journal for kids I found on Amazon. My children are ages 6–12, and these books work amazingly for each of them. When the school year rolled back around and my husband and I made the decision to keep them home, one of the first purchases I made was their gratitude books. My oldest was completely fine with virtual learning (he would prefer to be homeschooled), but my girls were really looking forward to the school year. My oldest daughter was going into her 5th-grade year and was excited to see her friends after the longest break ever. My youngest was starting kindergarten, and she was beyond excited to simply go to school. This was also the year she would finally attend the same school as her big sister.
I wanted them to take a step back and try not to focus on what they couldn’t do — but rather what they could do. Their gratitude journals were perfect for this. It helped them to pause and think of the good throughout their day. The 3-minute gratitude journal for kids holds true to its name. In a quick three minutes, your child will fulfill their gratitude habit for the day. Each page starts by asking them to list three things they are thankful for daily, followed by asking them to share how they felt that day, and the last question is different on each page. The journal may ask what’s your favorite food, what was the best part of your day, or who did something kind for you today?
I also love how kid-friendly these journals are. They give children the option to draw their answers if they aren’t writing well just yet. My 5th-grader loves to express herself through art, so she takes advantage of this option. The journal also shows pictures of different emotions your younger child can use to help them identify how they felt that day. These journals are quick and simple to use. (There’s also a great 5-minute gratitude journal for adults!)
As we make our way into the month of November, now is a better time than ever to show gratitude and thankfulness. Through the many ways I’ve shared to help teach gratitude to children, the one that may be most important is to lead by example. Yes, this year has been hard in more ways than one, but we still have so much to be thankful for.
How do you teach your children about gratitude?