As adults we know that being grateful is one of the major keys to living a happy and healthy life. There have even been numerous scientific studies on the benefits of gratitude, especially in the field of positive psychology. Research shows that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
And it’s no different for children. Studies have also revealed that there is a positive relationship between happiness and gratitude in children from as young as five years old. According to a 2008 study published in the Journal of School Psychology2 , grateful children (ages 11 to 13) tend to be happier, more optimistic, and have better social support. They also report more satisfaction with their schools, families, communities, friends, and themselves. Grateful kids also tend to give more social support to others as well.
Similarly, in a study published in Psychological Assessment in 2011, it was shown that grateful teens (ages 14 to 19) are more satisfied with their lives, use their strengths to improve their communities, are more engaged in their schoolwork and hobbies, and have better grades. They’ve also been shown to be less envious, depressed, and materialistic than their less grateful counterparts.
The goal of most parents is to create better lives for their children than what they had. And because many children don’t have to go through the struggles that their parents went through, parents worry that their children don’t understand the value of things and opportunities. Worse yet, parents fear that their children are entitled and lack gratitude. So how do we instill in our children the importance of gratitude, when we basically give them everything?
Here are 7 easy ways to help your children become more grateful:
1. Model Gratitude
As with every positive attribute that you wish for your children to have, you need to lead by example. A 2016 study published in Applied Developmental Science6 found that grateful parents tend to raise grateful children. You should try to demonstrate gratitude in your own life by expressing thankfulness for everyday occurrences - your home, your meals, your spouse. Children are more likely to adopt a grateful mindset when they witness it in their parents. A simple thing is just always saying "thank you."
2. Gratitude Journaling
Encourage your children to keep a gratitude journal. Set aside time each day for them to write down or draw things they are thankful for. This simple practice helps them reflect on positive aspects of their lives and fosters a habit of gratitude.
3. Family Gratitude Rituals
Establish family rituals that emphasize gratitude. This could include a weekly gratitude circle during which each family member shares something they're thankful for. Creating these shared moments reinforces the value of gratitude within the family unit. A beautiful ritual is praying before sharing a meal together.
4. Volunteer Together
Actively engage in volunteer activities as a family. Whether it's participating in community service projects, participating in a beach cleanup, or contributing to a charity, exposing children to the act of giving fosters an appreciation for what they have and a sense of empathy for others.
5. Gratitude Jar
Introduce a gratitude jar in your home. Have your children write notes of appreciation and place them in the jar. At the end of the week or month, read the notes together as a family. This tangible representation of gratitude reinforces the positive practice.
6. Mindful Thank You's
Teach your children the importance of expressing gratitude through genuine thank you's. Encourage them to be specific in their appreciation, whether it's thanking a friend for sharing, a teacher for their guidance, or a family member for their support. This helps children understand the impact of their words.
7. Gratitude Games
Make learning about gratitude fun by incorporating games. Create a "gratitude scavenger hunt" where children search for things they are grateful for in their surroundings. This not only makes gratitude enjoyable but also encourages mindfulness about the positive aspects of their environment.
The most wonderful thing about all of this is that everyone wins. In teaching your children how to become more grateful and trying to incorporate gratitude into your family culture, you too will grow into a happier and healthier version of yourself. And you could never go wrong with being grateful!