All parents want to raise children who are happy, healthy, and psychologically resilient when facing challenges. There is a simple trait that we can develop in our children that helps reach this goal.
Gratitude helps children (and grown-ups!) feel more positive emotions and be more mindful during their day. It’s also associated with less depression and greater ability to thrive when facing challenges.
Evidence is increasingly mounting that gratitude helps children bounce back from stressors, develop more meaningful relationships, and be more present and mindful in their lives.
Fortunately for busy parents, encouraging gratitude takes almost no effort. Small shifts in how we interact with our children can improve their gratitude.
Follow these three steps to increase your child’s gratitude. Bonus: You’ll grow your own gratitude as well!
Giving your child hugs, kisses, and verbal affirmations of love are important for building connection. Why does showing warmth and love increase gratitude? Because when we are in a positive emotional state, and feel supported and loved, we are primed to be grateful for many aspects of our life. A positive, loving relationship with your child is definitely something you’ll both be grateful for.
Show your child what it means to have a gratitude attitude. You are an influential force in your child’s life – and even in the moments you don’t know it, your child is watching you and absorbing your way of interacting with the world. So, show them what it means to be grateful. No need to go overboard and be constantly naming things for which you are grateful. But, at least once a day, say something for which you are grateful. You don’t have to start a big conversation about it with your child. Even statements spoken into the air to nobody-in-particular carry weight. Your child is learning how to be grateful.
From the toddler years to the teen years, everybody benefits from a family gratitude project. Think dinner conversations, décor, or journals! The trick to any project that you take on is to make it sustainable and repeatable. Maybe on Friday nights, you order pizza and everybody in the family talks about something they are thankful for from that week (Bonus: Even on the hardest week, parents can all be thankful for a night off from cooking). Or, each season cut out shapes, like hearts for Valentine’s Day or leaves for Fall. Have family members write what they are thankful for on the paper and decorate your space with grateful thoughts. Another possibility is to create a weekly family journal where you write down gratitude. Although this one can be hard to remember to do, it’s a wonderful keepsake to look back on as your children grow. Plus, in hard moments, everybody in the family can go back and read the gratitude journal.
Raising a grateful child is a powerful strategy to developing your child’s resilience. Adopt these three strategies today to start growing your child’s gratitude.
I am an award-winning scientist, educator, author, and a mom. I help parents accomplish their goals for themselves and their families.
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