There are great emotional and physical benefits to living a life of gratitude. A study at the University of California found that people who focus on positive things are less likely to get sick, less bothered by aches and pains, and sleep better. They are also more likely to describe themselves as “happy” and take greater joy in life. Socially, they are more helpful, compassionate, forgiving and less likely to describe themselves as “lonely.” When we think about our children’s futures, aren’t these all traits we wish for them?
It’s great to have a special day to gather with loved ones and say “thank you” for blessings. However, to reap the real benefits of gratitude, it must become a lifestyle. Now is the time to cultivate a spirit of gratitude in your child. It is easier to maintain those habits formed in childhood than to learn new ways of behavior as an adult.
Try some of these simple ideas and approaches to help your child focus on and be grateful for the positive!
- Instead of asking the question, “What did you do at school today?” challenge your child to “Tell me 3 good things that happened today.”
- Be intentional about sharing your own gratitude. Tell your child things you’re grateful for, and be specific.
- Start a family gratitude journal. Challenge each person to add one item every day. Review the journal periodically as a family.
- Create a gratitude jar. Every time a family member notices something they’re grateful for, add a pebble to the jar. When the jar is full, plan a special family evening or outing.
- Pass it on! Find ways to say “thank you” to others. Have your child help craft a “thank you” email or card to someone they’re grateful for.
- Help your child be grateful for what they have by helping those with less. Support your child in collecting books, toys, clothes, or other items he or she no longer uses or wears. Box these up and go together to deliver them to a shelter or other charity.
Alphonse Karr said, “Some people grumble that roses have thorns. I am grateful that thorns have roses.”
You can choose to focus on the prickliness of the thorns in life, or you can look for and celebrate the beauty of the roses that invariably accompany the thorns. Studies tell us that those who focus on thorns will find more thorns, while those who focus on beauty are more likely to find happiness. There is lots of beauty and good in the world. Pause for a moment and help your child see and be grateful for it.