We see it all the time. Being thankful or expressing gratitude for the good things in our life is good for us. We heard it from our grandparents, and now we see it from researchers and scientists. It’s all so true. Gratitude and thankfulness are good for us. Not only for us, but we can instill this attitude of gratitude in our kids to help them.
A habitual practice of expressing gratitude or constantly paying attention to what we have to be thankful for can wire our brains in a more positive way. Expressing gratitude can help our brains release the oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin (the so-called “happy hormones”), all important for mental health and happiness.
This long-term practice has been shown to have many positive health benefits, from better sleep, to stress reduction, to the ability to overcome challenges, to healthier relationships, to more contentment. Researchers have also found that gratitude can lead to better physical and mental health. When we are thankful for those we share our lives with, we greatly enhance our relationships. Thankful people also often have a higher self-worth and can appreciate their own and other’s accomplishments. People can increase their happiness and reduce symptoms of depression. (Gratitude alone is not enough to treat depression. Please seek support from a therapist or medical doctor if you or your child are dealing with depression.)
Helping our kids make this part of their daily routine can help instill this important attitude. It can become part of their mindset. Making it part of our daily conversations makes it become real. I think most parents want their kids to be happy and content. Helping them create a habit of gratitude can help with this goal.
Kids who express gratitude typically:
- Have a high self-worth
- Feel more positive emotions
- Have the mindset of optimism
- Have a growth mindset
- Can overcome challenges
- Have stronger social skills
- Can have empathy for others
- Can foster relationships
- Are kind
- Sleep well
- Are mentally and physical healthy
- Can find the “silver-lining” in hard situations
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Real Life Example:
You wouldn’t think it would be easy to have an attitude of gratitude when bad things happen. When our family lost our home in a California wildfire, we quite literally had nothing. We were homeless, with no toys or clothes or any of our sentimental things. It was true devastation. But in the midst of all that, we found reasons to be thankful. Even as small as a friend stopping by the hotel room we lived in for two weeks, with mac-n-cheese for our toddler. Or another friend stopping by with new coloring books. And then bigger things, like watching our home be rebuilt. It was all about perspective and how to choose to look at the situation. Finding something good in hard times can be really hard, and there are times we can’t find anything good while struggling through a hard time. Fostering resilience in ourselves and our kids can help us get through these difficult times.
Putting it into Practice:
So, how can we make this a habit in our families? Here are some ideas. If you already do something, we’d love to hear what it is!
- Share Bedtime/Dinnertime Daily Highs and Lows of the day (the good parts and the bad parts)
- Find the good in the bad. Try to find something good that came from a hard time.
- Journal daily blessings, good things.
- List 5 things you are thankful for each day.
- Thankful photo book. Make a photo album with pictures of various people or things you are thankful for.
- List one big thing you are thankful for, and one small thing. This helps us see that even small things are reasons to be thankful.
- Make a habit of telling others you are thankful for them. Send them notes. Leave lunchbox notes. Expressing gratitude for someone else to that person as even more added benefits.
- In the morning, tell yourself what you will do today. In the evening, remind yourself of everything you got done.
The key is finding what works for you and your family.
By: Emily Scott, PhD
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You may also like:
The Power of “Even Though” Being Thankful in Hard Times
Emotional Wellness for Parents
Emotional Intelligence for Kids
Focusing on Your Child’s Mental Health
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