Gratitude: I am thankful. Teaching children to action gratefulness.

It's mental health week and we are right around the corner from Canadian Thanksgiving. 

Thinking about thanksgiving this year it is more obvious than ever the importance of gratitude and its positive effect on our mental health.

How many times have you heard that being thankful and showing gratitude is contagious? How many times have your practiced that and reaped the benefits?

As parents/teacher/caregivers we can become obsessed with teaching our little people their manners.

Remember to say please.

Remember to say thank you.

But are we taking the time to discuss with our children what it means when we say please and thank you. And at that are we taking the time ourselves?

In my most recent Instagram post I discussed actionable elements of gratitude highlighted by the The Raising Grateful Children Project. They argue that gratitude has 4 parts:

1. What we NOTICE in our lives for which we can be grateful:

  • When something simple and/or extraordinary happens to your child, or is given to your child take the time to allow the to NOTICE what they have received.
  • Discuss the gift of kindness with them, and provide them with the awareness of kindness in their lives.

2. How we THINK about why we have been given those things:

  • Giving our children permission to acknowledge why they deserve to receive gifts and acts of kindness helps them navigate their feelings of inner worthiness.
  • Openly practicing acknowledgement of receiving love and kindness will not only increase their confidence but will allow them to give love and kindness easily to others.

3. How we FEEL about the things we have been given

  • Expression of feelings are important to both children and adults alike.
  • When a child is asked to describe how receiving a gift or act of kindness has made them feel, it allows them to dig beneath the superficiality of just saying "thanks".
  • Ask questions like "When your friend asked you if you were ok, how did it make you feel? Why do you think it made you feel that way?"

4. What we DO to express appreciation in turn

  • I love the "DO's"! I am a firm believer that affirmations are only as good as the practice we put into them. This goes with anything in life - want to learn to read, practice reading. Want to learn to add, practice adding numbers, etc.
  • But how do you practice gratitude? Yes it can be as simple as saying thank you but it can also be a lot more.
  • Gratitude is not only about how we receive things but also how we give to others. Therefore offering gratitude in ways beyond spoken words is an incredibly important practice.
  • Examples can include: writing a thank you note or drawing a thank you picture, giving a hug (when comfortable), sending someone flowers, etc.
  • This is such an amazingly simple way to start practicing gratitude with children!

And why is this so important?

1. Gratitude can improve our mood.

2. Those who regularly express gratitude are scientifically shown to be happier overall with lower stress levels and lower levels of depression.

3. Having a daily (conscious) practice of gratitude can make you more optimistic & prevent mental illness.


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