Written by Natalya Ganchina M.Ed.
How often do you feel grateful? Not just grateful to people that helped you or did you a favor, but thankful for everything that you have. Being grateful is known to positively affect a person’s emotional, psychological, and even physical well-being. Research shows that daily gratitude, even for everyday things, can make you feel happier and more content with your life.
People who are grateful are also known to exercise more and have less need for medical attention. For these reasons, teaching children gratitude from early ages helps them to grow into happy and healthy adults. The habit of being thankful helps people maintain perspective about what is important, which helps you overcome the difficulties of day-to-day life. To teach children gratitude, you should practice it regularly and together. When you start practicing gratitude with your child, do not expect to see results right away. It’s a mindset that people grow into over time. Here are some steps that you can use in your practice:
Find a specific time during the day to remind your child to be thankful
For example, make a habit to tell your child what you are grateful for when they are going to bed and waking up. Ask them to think about things that they appreciate regularly so they get used to thinking that way.
Teach your child be grateful for food before they eat it
In many modern households, it is easy to take having enough good food, and the people who grew and prepared it, for granted. Being grateful for our “daily bread” helps us to be aware how lucky we are to have it.
Appreciate how lucky you are and be grateful for it
Watch videos or documentary about things that are happening around the world, in places that are different or less advantaged. Read historical books and teach them about war, famine, and natural disasters, while keeping it age appropriate. Whatever bad things might be happening in your life, it is good to remember other people’s suffering and keep perspective.
Open your eyes and enjoy your surroundings together
Point out the beauty of nature around you and express your gratefulness for trees, flowers, water, and sky. Express joy and wonder about animals, buildings, transportation, and other common things that are around us.
Be grateful for the body, for each part of it, for every cell
Appreciate the health that your child and family members have. This is a good practice for gratitude especially if you are struggling to think of things to be thankful for. Health is easy to take for granted as well.
Emphasize the importance of saying “thank you” to people
Writing notes, calling people to say thanks, and of course saying it in person can change relationships for the better. Thanking other people for their help, friendship, or more also reflects on your sense of self worth. You are worth helping and being friends with. In this way, you can teach your child to be grateful for other people and their own person.
Often, people only start to appreciate the good things in life when they lose them. Do not wait for something to remind you to appreciate your life. Instead, be thankful for the opportunity to nurture your child and practice gratitude together. Acknowledge what you have now and become a happier person together with your child.