You’ve taught your child to say please and thank you (great!) and are wondering how to build a deeper sense of gratitude. Good for you– gratitude is linked with many good things from happiness to improved relationships.
And as parents it’s nice to think of our kids being grateful for us too!
There are several components to gratitude:
1) Recognizing the positive.
It can be easy to recognize the big things. A child is grateful for a new bike. A mom is grateful that her child has a healthy well-visit at the doctor’s. These are important but they may not occur every day.
One key component to gratitude is recognize the little daily things. Some of these may be the comforts that we take for granted, like heat or air conditioning in our homes, fresh water to drink, and good food on the table.
2) Letting go of the negative.
Sometimes we seek to experience gratitude but end up focusing on the negative. A child may say, “I’m thankful for my Play Station but I wish I was allowed to play it as much as my friends,” or “I’m happy we have good food but I don’t like spinach!”
A key to gratitude is letting go of the “buts.” The rule may be “Just give thanks for what you do have (forget about what you don’t).”
3) Creating a gratitude practice.
Most of us can say what we’re thankful for if someone asks us to stop and think about it. The problem is that we typically don’t stop to think about it. Because of the law of inertia we tend to keep doing what we’re doing and resist stopping to add something else in– until that practice becomes a habit.
Here are some ways that you can help your child build in a weekly or daily gratitude practice:
* Each day at dinner everyone says something they are thankful for.
* Create a gratitude board. Write down what you and your child appreciate on fun colored and shaped pieces of paper and tack up on the board.
* Begin a gratitude journal. Buy your child a beautiful notebook, journal or drawing pad, something special that they enjoy looking at. Also get some special pens or pencils. Help your child write what they are thankful for each day or at a specific time each week such as Sunday nights.
*Encourage your child to express apprecation. This goes a step beyond saying thank you because it helps children really think about what they are thankful for. For example, a 4 or 5 year-old might say, “Thank you for dinner.” An older child may say, “Thank you for taking the time to make the delicious meal.”
* Model gratitude for your child. Let him or her know how much you appreciate time you spend together and other things.
And some things that may be done less frequently:
* Encourage your child to write letters of appreciation to important people in their lives– teachers, grandparents, etc.
* Create an annual (or monthly) giving day. Your child can focus on what she is thankful for, such as her toys, and choose some toys that she doesn’t play with anymore to give to someone who is not fortunate to have such toys.
* Make a gratitude collage. Go through magazines, photos, and Google images to find images of things that your child loves and is thankful for. Your son may choose photos of his family, pictures of ice cream and pizza (his favorite foods), a beach, a playground, and so on.
Any other ideas for cultivating gratitude in children?