Having a grateful heart can lead to many benefits including greater happiness, better health, and improved overall wellbeing. Additionally, it’s never too late to begin practicing gratitude with children.
It’s one thing to talk about it, but how do we practice gratitude? I’m sharing 5 ways I personally practice gratitude with my children, and myself!
It sounds like an easy concept, however, some children do not have the skills to recognize what they’re feeling in order to communicate them. I love the Disney Movie Inside Out for this very reason, if your child hasn’t seen it, I would highly recommend it!
At the dinner table or in the car, when you have their attention, talk to your kids. Share the highlights of your day, how things made you feel and ask about theirs. If your child is like mine, they don’t share much.
Me: “How was your day today at school, Ryder?”
I have learned that I have to get really specific with my questions:
Talking can open us up and lead us into conversations that strengthen our relationships and help us to connect.
This is one I personally need to be better at! Keep a stack of Thank You or Note cards in a convenient place. When you see one, write one! I like to keep mine at my desk and in the kitchen.
Set a goal to write at least one Thank You card a week to someone. This could be a sibling, a school teacher, a Grandparent or even the crossing guard. You may be grateful for the people in your life, but take it one step higher and tell them!
Brightening their day will in turn, brighten yours. Because after all, they don’t know what we don’t say.
“Actions speak louder than words”
Actively look for ways to serve others. It could be as simple as opening the door for someone, sharing lunch with a friend, saying hello to a complete stranger, or even just smiling! Plan activities around service. Ask your local non profit or government agencies how you and your child can help. Feed the homeless, play with kids at the Boys and Girls Club, shovel snow, or mow a neighbors lawn. One of our favorites around the holidays is Sub 4 Santa! Get your child as involved as possible. Together, we realize how grateful we are and find joy in serving others.
For Christmas 2016, my boys received one gift from me, a trip to Peru to work in an orphanage through a company called Revive Humanity. My boys weren’t too excited on Christmas Day, however, they’ll tell you now it was one of the greatest gifts and experiences they’ve ever received! Of course, I documented it in a mini album found here, in a post called “I took 1,000 photos in Peru, now what?”.
In our home, every November, I pull out the Gratitude Jar (this can be an old vase, breakfast bowl, or even a brown paper bag). Find something the kids can use and see every day (clear jars work best) to add their drops of gratitude.
I put a stack of notecards next to the jar with a pen. The kids write one thing, every day, they are grateful for.
With 6 boys and one girl, our home is quite competitive. Seeing the jar fill up motivates each of them to add more. Our rule is that their gratitude HAS to be a thought-out, specific thing that they are grateful for. They can’t write “food” or “clothes”, they must be specific with “the soup my mom made tonight” or “the hoody my brother let me wear”.
My boys are now teenagers and need a little push to add things they’re grateful for each day, so I’ve added an element of competition to our November Gratitude Jar.
When November is over, we all get together and talk about the month, how we felt giving to others, the joy it brought, etc. Then, we take turns pulling out a note from the jar. We read them out loud. I prepare little prizes all wrapped up (packs of gum, headphones, pens, etc). We go around in a circle, taking turns reading each note out loud. It’s similar to a white elephant gift exchange—the kids can take someone’s open gift that they really like, or open a new gift. They love it and the gratitude in our home throughout the month is definitely noticeable.
Follow Persnickety Prints on Instagram for more behind the scenes in our home!
“Psychologists’ top two tips for cultivating gratitude are writing down three things you’re grateful for each morning or evening, and writing and then sending a letter to someone you haven’t properly thanked in your life—your mother, an old teacher, etc”.
We launched custom journals. We spent hours testing paper thickness and pens to ensure the quality is up to our Persnickety standard! We’ve even got 8 Free Gratitude Covers for you to download and use in your journal!
Read Oprah’s interesting story about why she keeps a gratitude journal. Read it here.
I hope these tips inspire you to find new ways to practice gratitude!
For more information, check out this article by Dr. Lawrence Rosen M.D., integrative pediatrician and co-author of Treatment Alternatives for Children, who discusses exactly why gratitude is good for our health.