Helping Children to Develop Gratitude
You have probably heard the saying ‘children are like sponges’ …. well indeed they are!
As parents we quickly learn that our reactions, words and attitudes are mirrored by our children. In fact, children form views of their internal and external world which are largely based on experiences they are given in the early years. Psychologists often refer to these as core beliefs and values.
Attitudes are similarly developed through the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that have been modelled. In the long term, attitudes will influence children’s choices as they go out into the world.
As such, being grateful is not only an attitude that can be assimilated from a young age but with sufficient repetitive experiences, can become entrenched in the child’s belief system and values.
But why is it important for children to develop gratitude?
Research shows that individuals whom have a well developed sense of gratitude, experience more life satisfaction, greater levels of optimism, higher self-esteem, have more empathy and increased psychological resilience. This means that in the face of adversity and challenges, they are more likely to bounce back quicker.
Providing opportunities for children to experience gratitude is therefore an investment in their long term psychological wellbeing! Developing a true sense of gratitude however, is more than just learning to say thank you ..but is instead cultivated through direct involvement that allows children to truly experience what gratitude is about.
Ideas that may help to prepare children to develop gratitude
- Role model it. Your actions, words and behaviours will be the most powerful roadmap a child will have as they go out into the world. So choose to behave in ways that demonstrate what gratitude is about.
- Take a moment each day to be grateful for 5 things (people, objects, friendships, kindness, health, love) that you have in your life and share them with your child. For younger children, help them to draw a picture of something that happened in their day which they are grateful for.
- Play games that increase awareness of gratitude: write secret notes to each other expressing something you are grateful for and place them under the pillow, or inside the lunchbox. Encourage them to do the same to you and to others (eg. friends, grandparents, siblings). For younger kids, draw pictures to each other.
- Create a gratitude jar: once a day, write down on a piece of paper something that you are grateful for and place it in the jar. Do this each day of the year and on Dec 31, open the jar and read them out.
- Limit how much you give them: with today’s throwaway society, it is easy for our children to be given too much. Help them to save for something special instead.
- Expose children to opportunities to feel firsthand the joy of being grateful: help them volunteer to help others, engage in random acts of kindness (do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return (smile, hugs, make a card, draw a picture, pick a small flower)
- Involve them in tasks that include some preparation, such as meals or tidying up so they understand the effort that is involved. Make time to reflect on this effort at the end.
- When receiving a gift, reflect with them on the effort the person giving it must have gone through to find it, make it or buy it, wrap it and give it.
- Observe mindfully. Sit with your child in the garden and watch the ants! Talk about their actions in seeking and finding food, comment on how they work together to help each other. Do this with other things in the environment to create a sense of gratitude for nature.
Below is the attachment link for the 30 Day of Gratitute Calander. You can print one off for you and your child or children to complete together!