More than just a nice feeling, gratitude is integral to happiness. If we can inspire and cultivate it in our kids, we’re doing so much more than reminding them to say “thank-you”, we’re helping them develop a strength that will impact their mental health and wellbeing over a lifetime. It’s that powerful.
Remember how many times you had to remind them to use their manners all those years ago? I know, probably too many! But in the same way good manners eventually become a part of daily life, sincere gratitude will too. It’s worth persevering.
Benefits of a grateful mindset
Kids with a grateful mindset are more optimistic and experience greater social support, which is essential for their health and happiness. They experience more fulfilling friendships and family relationships; are more content in themselves and with their school; have higher grades and are less focussed on material possessions.
Research has also shown that, compared with those who don’t, people who practice gratitude are more enthusiastic, determined, perform better at school, are more likely to avoid risky behaviours, experience less depression and envy, are more kind and helpful, sleep better and are 25% happier.
Happiness is something we absolutely want for ourselves and for our children and practicing gratitude is a sure-fire way to boost happiness for the whole family. Especially because the best way to teach gratitude is for us as parents to role model it.
We know how we feel when we’re shown gratitude, it lifts our spirits, boosts our mood and inevitably strengthens our relationship with the person expressing their thanks. Our relationships are incredibly important for our overall happiness and teaching our children genuine appreciation is one of the most important ways we can help them to develop strong relationships over the course of their lives.
Where do I start?
Supporting your kids to become more grateful begins with teaching three fundamental ideas:
- Awareness that someone has purposefully done something to benefit them
- Taking action to provide them a benefit cost the person in some way
- That the benefit of that person’s actions is valuable to them
Practicing gratitude is gaining momentum, and different families do it in different ways. The trick is to introduce a gratitude practice that doesn’t feel like a chore. Even if there’s a little resistance at first, don’t give up. It feels good to be grateful, so it should eventually become something that doesn’t need too much of a nudge.
There are loads of fun ways to practice gratitude, here’s a few ideas:
- You could start by more regularly expressing sincere gratitude to your partner and to your children including why you feel grateful
- pop up a piece of poster paper on the fridge for the kids to note things they’re grateful for in colourful textas
- ask each family member what they’re thankful for each evening at dinner
- stop to savour and appreciate the little things like a beautiful flower or a colourful sunset
- relive happy moments together
- ask the kids to take photos of the things they’re grateful for
- keep thank-you notes at the ready
- encourage a contribution for ‘wants’ (as opposed to ‘needs’) from pocket money
- start a gratitude journal and invite the kids to make contributions
- encourage your kids to help others
It’s really about finding the right fit and making the practice a regular part of family life, changing things up along the way.
Associate Professor Jeffrey Froh, a leading authority on gratitude in young people, tells us that perhaps one of the most important things we can do is “to help kids discover their passions and to find a path to purpose that resonates with them— with their values, interests, and dreams. Having a sense of purpose in life gives youth a compass for creating a meaningful life. This starts with feeding their interests in the social issues they care about and pushing them to learn as much as they can about those issues and discover ways they can make a difference. The deepest sense of gratitude in life comes from connecting to a bigger picture, to an issue that matters to others and doing things that contribute to society down the road.”
Jodi is on a mission to elevate mental health and wellbeing in families, classrooms and workplaces.
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