Experts Agree, Thankfulness and Gratitude Lead To Happier Lives
For parents, teaching “thanks” may start by telling your child to simply say thank you, but as they grow-up instilling the larger concept of gratitude requires a little more thought.
On one hand, we can be “thankful” for the things we receive and the people who surround us, gratitude on the other hand is the sum of our appreciation for those things individually. That’s where it gets tricky for parents. Because, although most of us have our own understanding of what gratitude means for us personally, teaching children the nuances of silver linings and appreciation is a completely different story. And that, unfortunately, is where a lot of parents give up too soon or avoid any attempt to instill these values early on.
And we completely understand your frustration, but experts say it’s necessary.
A 2019 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that gratitude is linked to happiness in children by age 5. This means helping your kids understand the idea of being thankful at a young age could help them grow up to be happier people.
So how exactly do you do it? Here’s 5 methods to get you started.
Share your Gratitude Each Day.
Taking five minutes during breakfast and during the bedtime routine to ask your child what they are thankful for allows them to reorient their mind and thoughts to what matters the most at the beginning and end of each day.
Don’t Force Kids to “Get Over” Things Quickly.
It’s always difficult to see your little one upset or angry, but allowing them to experience the range of emotions that comes with life experiences makes it easier for you to help them identify silver linings as they get older. If they are upset, you can ask them what they are grateful for in that moment, but don’t force them to have an answer just to please you. Let them do it in their own time.
Help Someone Less Fortunate.
Taking your child to volunteer on holidays or at special community events will not only help the child to understand that people have different life experiences, but it will also help them to see the ways that they’ve been fortunate. This can be something small like asking them to set aside a couple of dollars to donate to a cause, or taking them to pass out food or gifts during a holiday drive.
Create a Thankful Time Capsule.
A time capsule can literally just be a box that contains letters your child writes themselves at the beginning of each month or each year about the things they are thankful for. Creating this ritual can be helpful for them to understand how much their life shifts from year to year, and it can help them track their perspective around life events.
Be A Model for the Behavior Your Want to See.
It all starts at home. If you want your child to understand how to be grateful, then you need to model behavior that guides them through what gratitude should look like in day-to-day life. Give your kids a glimpse of why gratitude is important to you by openly sharing the things you’re grateful for, and why.