It’s the time of year when we talk extensively about teaching gratitude and being thankful. But why does the focus on gratitude come at just this time of year? And why should we do it all year long with our children?
There are many studies on the effects of gratitude on children and most of them come down to these conclusions. Grateful kids are happier. This article from Very Well Mind does a good job summarizing different studies. Here are some of the big things:
“A 2019 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that gratitude is linked to happiness in children by age 5. This means that instilling gratitude in your kids at a young age could help them grow up to be happier people.”
“According to a 2008 study published in the Journal of School Psychology, 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.”
“According to a 2011 study published in Psychological Assessment, 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.”
Amazing right? Now that we know how amazing it can be to instill gratitude in our children let’s talk about how we can start the process.
Model your own gratitude
Do it out loud for your children to hear! Start to notice times in your own day when you can stop and recognize when someone did something nice for you. Say it when you see something beautiful around you. If you think of a compliment in your head, “Wow that lady has amazing shoes!” say it out loud. You’ll show your kids how to express gratitude towards a stranger and you’ll probably make that person smile as a bonus.
Express your feelings
When someone does something for you, express how it makes you feel. Are you happy? Did it make you proud? If you are given something, share how it makes you feel. Did the special gift make you calm and peaceful? Or did it make you giggle and laugh?
Appreciation through actions
Struggling to start somewhere? Start with manners; say thank you more and add a please at the end often. But let’s get bigger here. If you see someone who needs help, go lend a hand. Can you bring a friend some of the cookies you just made? And of course you can donate, not only items but your time. Show your children how your actions can spread kindness.
The best part of teaching gratitude to your children is that it will probably rub off on you as well! So all those happiness benefits your children will gain are also going to help you.
More ideas for children?
Tiffany Verhoosel is currently a Computer Science teacher in the Baltimore City School District. Coming from a background of business she joined the Baltimore City Teaching Residency over ten years ago to make the career change into education and has never looked back. Her degree from Johns Hopkins, a Master of Science in Digital Age Learning and Educational Technology, helped propel her from Special Educator to her current teaching position where she teaches Kindergarten to eighth grade students how to code.