Most of us begin teaching children to be grateful in early childhood while coaching them on good manners. Our conversations are sprinkled with prompts like “say thank you” and “eat all of your dinner; there are people who don’t have anything to eat.” However, having an attitude of gratitude is about more than just good manners.
Studies show that those who live a grateful life have fewer symptoms of depression and are healthier and happier overall. In addition, gratitude can lead to a more optimistic outlook on life and an increase in self-esteem, both of which provide hope and teach empathy.
Here are several ways you can bring an attitude of gratitude to your home:
Rewrite the Dialogue
Include gratefulness in daily conversation. When discussing the events of the day, follow up any negative statements or events with a reason to be thankful. For example: “I’m sorry to hear that you failed the math test; I’m sure that upset you. However, I am grateful you have the opportunity for relearning.” Be sure to model saying thank you when applicable. Even more importantly, don’t forget to tell your children regularly why you are thankful to be their parent.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of giving too much to our children. Buying kids whatever they want anytime they want it leads to a lack of appreciation for their possessions. Instead, give your children an opportunity to work for that item they really want through acts of service or by earning an allowance. Teaching children to save up for what they want fosters not just gratitude, but patience, planning, and the value of hard work—all valuable lessons to take into adulthood.
Plan to Volunteer
Make a plan to volunteer as a family in your community. Working to clean local parks, visiting retirement homes, helping out at food banks, and volunteering at the local library or animal shelter are just a few of the ways to serve your community. Understanding that everyone needs help sometimes and that we can all make a difference in the lives of others goes a long way toward cultivating gratitude in your home.
Count Your Blessings
There are several simple activities you can incorporate into everyday life to encourage thankful thinking. Have your child cover a shoebox with decorative paper for a “blessing box.” Provide small strips of paper and encourage your family members to write down things for which they are grateful every day. At the end of the week, gather as a family to take turns sharing all of your blessings. Extend the conversation by having each person take a turn answering what he or she would do without the things for which they are thankful.
The Greek philosopher Epictetus said: “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” Even during challenging times, there are many reasons to be grateful. During this season of giving thanks and beyond, we hope these tips will help you show your children how a thankful attitude can lighten their hearts and help spread happiness to others.
If you are interested in learning more about Connections Academy® and the amazing K–12 teachers in schools across the country, find a school near you.