In the past decade, several long-term research studies have shown a strong connection between gratitude and greater social support and protection from stress and depression over time. It helps people stay happier and healthier. The studies suggest that gratitude in children helps them form, maintain and strengthen relationships as well as helping them feel connected to their community. Here are some ideas for growing “gratitude muscles” in your family. Children learn from our example.
- Talk about being grateful out loud. It might sound like, “Thank you for” or “I’m grateful for.”
- Include gratitude in your routines. You may be a family that shares gratitude before meals, gratitude for joys of the day before bedtime or a family that regularly reflects on things you are grateful for including friends and each other.
- Keep a family gratitude journal or jar. Your family can write down things you are grateful for and then on special occasions take time to read what you have been grateful for together.
- Model and encourage helping others and nurturing relationships. When children see us helping others, they are more likely to follow suit. When children lend a hand to another – especially if they are using their own strengths, they feel more connected to those they are helping. They learn that tending to relationships should be a priority.
- Plant the seeds of gratitude early. Gratitude thrives in an environment of connection and belonging. When infants’ and toddlers’ needs are satisfied with love and patience, we are planting the seeds of gratitude.
- Teach your children how to contribute. Help your child discover his or her passion and then to use that passion to make a difference by giving back. The strongest sense of gratitude comes from connecting to a ‘bigger picture’.