By Sandi Schwartz
Gratitude is one of the most important ways for us to get a happiness boost, providing us with so many wonderful psychological, physical, and interpersonal benefits. It improves our health, reduces stress, and helps us focus on the positive. Stepping back and being thankful for what we have gives us energy, inspires us, and transforms us. It also helps us realize that life is truly a gift.
Learning how to be grateful is definitely something that we should pass on to our kids. If you can get them into the habit of expressing gratitude from an early age, it is likely to have a positive effect in the long run. Here are some ways to build a gratitude habit in your home.
One of the most popular and effective ways to express gratitude stories is through journaling. It encourages our kids to acknowledge the positive moments in their day, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Whether it is a smile from a stranger, a good grade on a test, a gift from a relative, or an awe-inspiring sunset, they will begin to feel calmer and more joyful by appreciating these experiences. Our children can greatly benefit from keeping a gratitude journal, but it’s important that we keep it fun for them such as with multimedia ideas like blogs and videos.
Thanksgiving Dinner Every Night
Just because Thanksgiving is in November doesn’t mean we can’t incorporate Thanksgiving traditions year-round as we sit down together at the dinner table. Enjoy your time with your family and encourage your children to tell you all about their day and the things to be grateful for. Ask them to remember to thank siblings and other family members. Some families find it helpful to put together a gratitude jar to collect their thankful statements all year, and then they can go through everything they wrote each year on Thanksgiving.
The most important stress buster that I added to my life was introducing a gratitude prayer with my children every night as part of their bedtime routine. We go around the room and each say one thing we are thankful for that day and one thing we hope for in the future. It is such a special time we share together, and has become a key part of our lives. I love this practice because it gives me a chance to think about gratitude everyday, even if I don’t always say everything I am thinking out loud for my children to hear. And when you do it with your children, they hold you accountable. My children love it so much that they now need to say thank you before they can fall asleep. You can also read books about gratitude at bedtime, such as The Thankful Book by Todd Parr and My Grateful Book by Diana Smith.
Finally, try finding gratitude moments with your children throughout the day. A great time is during the car ride to and from school or when you are waiting in line at a store or in the doctor’s office. Connect with your children by asking them what happened during their day what they are grateful for. Make gratitude part of your children’s after school routine.
Add some fun and interest by asking your kids to use the alphabet, colors, shapes, or other categories to guide what that are thankful for. For example, ask them to find one thing they are grateful for based on the colors of the rainbow: the delicious red apple they had during lunch, the bright blue sky, and the beautiful purple flower blooming in front of your house. Next, spark their appreciation for nature by taking them to awe-inspiring places like gardens, the beach, parks, and hiking and camping spots. And just when your day seems stressful and out of control, take a gratitude break to calm everyone down and to gain a new, more uplifting perspective.
Sandi Schwartz is a freelance writer/blogger and mother of two. She has written extensively about parenting, wellness, and environmental issues. You can find her at www.happysciencemom.com and www.sandischwartz.com. Get her free course on raising happy, balanced kids at bit.ly/2i53TDV