What if we could help kids to be more joyful, more forgiving, more loving, more enthusiastic, and more optimistic about life? What would it take to ensue such a bright outlook on life? I do think that generally children already have this outlook on life but somewhere along the line it changes as adulthood approaches. Is there something we as parents can do that provides our children with the tools to embrace the good in this world and not dwell on things that dampen optimism?
Well, I do have some good news. Finally, there is evidence that expressing Gratitude can contribute to a much brighter outlook on life!
If children (and adults for that matter) regularly express statements of gratitude they are more likely to be more joyful, forgiving, loving, enthusiastic and more optimistic about life. These attributes were actually measured in a research study conducted by psychology Professor Robert Emmons in 1998. During the study, a group of people were asked to keep a gratitude journal where they would write down things that they were grateful for and another group of people were asked to write down only complaints. The results speak for themselves as the grateful group recorded greater improvement in psychological, physical and social well-being compared with the complaining group.
This exercise of journaling gratitude may seem simplistic and too easy, however it is more intellectually demanding than we think because it requires contemplations, reflection and discipline as Professor Emmons remarks in his book Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier.
So how can we teach this concept to our children? Well it all starts with us, I suppose. We begin to adopt the attitude of gratitude and it becomes an example set for our kids. It is a real change in mind-set. Whether we verbalize it or not our worrying about money, complaining about the traffic, being concern about our children’s education and future and being suspicious of strangers and sales people becomes and attitude that our children can sense. Since reading a beautiful Christian book called One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are I have begun to express in front of my children things that I am grateful for. I would say things like “Oh do you see that beautiful bird just sitting there next to us? – Well that is a very special gift from God, just for us right now.” It is amazing how these simple proclamations set an example of gratitude for our children. My son now often makes his own expressions of gratitude like these without any prompting.
The ART of Gratitude
Being grateful is a very subjective term because people are grateful for different things and they hold value to each person uniquely. So when we are trying to instill the value of gratitude in our children we need to be mindful of what each child values.
Ask yourself what are you truly grateful for right now?
Now, tell your children what they are.
Then, show them how you want to express this further.
Some Suggestions: Write a love note. Draw a doodle picture. Cut pictures out of a magazine and paste them on some coloured cardboard. Write them on some river stones and place them in a glass bowl. Bake some cupcakes and stick flags on top with your words of gratitude. Use a noticeboard to pin statements of gratitude. Take photos. Write a journal.
This is how kids learn the art of Gratitude – by seeing how it is modeled by you. They will soon pick up the idea if it becomes a natural part of your life.
The following points are some areas of expressing Gratitude in greater detail:
I think the skill of journaling needs to be taught to our children because it can be a great resource to refer to when they are feeling down. A journal that has written expressions of gratitude can give hope when they need it.
Let me make some suggestions to help guide your children develop a habit of journaling with an emphasis on gratitude. Firstly, obtain a blank notebook just for them and perhaps a special pen of box of coloured pencils. This places the act of journaling as a special and meaningful activity. Now go for a walk with your child. Draw attention to the things you see and hear – in fact use all your senses to make observations of your world. You might pick up a stone and observe how it feels and the colours it has. Ask your child what they think about it. Maybe you could take a photo of something or pick up a leaf to stick in the journal. When you get back ask your child to write down what they experienced in that walk and what they were most thankful for. Give you child some space and some quiet time to reflect on this experience. Simply put: this is the beginning to journaling a life of gratitude!!
I have designed a 13-page FREE PRINTABLE of Journal Prompts for Kids for you to download, if you wish.
I came across this great idea (below) on Pinterest of a Journal Jar. This is where the whole family can get involved and write down things they are grateful for during the week. The ideas from this can be endless – perhaps at the end of the end all the journal entries are placed in a book and read out on New Years Eve.
Credit Link: Teaching With TLC
When the topic of gratitude is being explored, it may be useful for children to express this in creative ways. Gratitude is not a concrete attribute and so using creative mediums like paint, drawing, collage, story-telling, drama, music, sewing, sculpture, cooking and the like, may help the child confirm the meaning of gratitude to them.
I came across a wonderful book that gave some great ideas about how to express gratitude creatively. The book is called The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections. The author Amanda Blake Soule says in her book:
“Gratitude, and recognizing gratitude, can have a powerful effect on our whole lives. When we feel grateful, we feel full – full of love, full of inspiration, full of ideas, and full of creative spirit.“
Here are some ideas on Pinterest I have come across:
Credit Link: Simply Vintage Girl
Credit Link: Wedding Wire