How to Teach Gratitude to Kids
As we head into the holiday season and the inevitable abundance of toy catalogs that will be stuffed into mailboxes, it seems there's no better time to each kids about gratitude. While a buzzword this time of year, it's also a transformational practice at any age. What a gift to be able to give to children!
You don't have to take our word for it– there's actually a lot of science around gratitude. In a 2019 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that gratitude is linked to happiness in children as early as age 5. A 2008 study published in the Journal of School Psychology, found that grateful children (ages 11 to 13) tend to be happier, more optimistic, and have better social support. A 2011 study published in Psychological Assessment, found that grateful teens (ages 14 to 19) are more satisfied with their lives, use their strengths to improve their communities, are more engaged in their schoolwork and hobbies, and have better grades. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that grateful adults are happier and more hopeful.
We turned to the experts to help us with this one. Here's what they had to say:
Be a Super Model
It's easy to forget that the behavior we model has a profound impact on our children. Take the time to practice gratitude out loud when your kids are around. For example when you pick up your children from a playdate, you can say “What a wonderful thing it is to have great friends to spend the day with.” Or when checking out of the grocery store, “Look at this full cart of groceries. Aren’t we lucky to be able to take this home to feed our family?” Say the positive thoughts you're thinking in your head out loud so that your kids can hear them.
Two simple words…THANK YOU
Making “Thank You” a regular phrase for your children is important but they also need to know the meaning behind their thanks. According to Dr. Sarah Clark, M.P.H. co-director of the S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health at University of Michigan Health. “There’s a difference between politeness and gratitude,” Clark said. “To help children learn to be grateful, parents also need to emphasize why they’re asking their child to say thanks.”
Find ways to help others in need
It is important to encourage children and teens to take active steps in providing service to their communities. Help them find causes that they are interested in, such as volunteering for a nursing home or raising money for charity. According to Dr. Munshi in The American Academy of Pediatrics, by participating in such giving activities, they will gain a sense of purpose and develop skills that will help them succeed in life.
Turn it on them
Don’t forget to tell your children how grateful you are for THEM. When was the last time you thanked your child for being a good listener or for showing kindness towards others? Feeling loved and appreciated will fill their cup, and allow them to share those sentiments with others in their lives.
Everyone’s favorite resource, Pinterest, has a plethora of crafty gratitude ideas for your entire family. From scavenger hunts and gratitude jars, to family games and coloring pages, kids love visuals, and gratitude trees or gratitude jars are an easy way to keep gratitude at the forefront of your family’s mind on a day-to-day basis. Little ones might need a nudge at first, but soon they’ll catch on with examples from the rest of the family. The best thing about this is being able to hear what’s important and meaningful in the hearts of your kids.