Not only does a sense of gratitude feel good, research shows that this pleasant emotion and its expression result in higher levels of happiness, vitality, optimism, and hope. According to those interested in studying gratitude and its effects, people who consciously experience appreciation also derive physical health benefits. The result? All of these positives related to feeling grateful lead to a greater satisfaction with life.
So why not teach our kids the meaning behind feeling thankful?
Children under the age of seven may not be able to fully understand the feeling of gratitude, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help them notice the positive aspects of their lives. As a bedtime ritual, ask your kids, “What were the high points of the day for you today?”
Kids between the ages of eight and ten develop a greater understanding of appreciative feelings, so you can go one step further and have a conversation about a kind gesture offered to your child. Include an explanation, such as “It was nice of Uncle Bob to make the time to prepare sweet potatoes with marshmallows for our dinner—he knows they are your favorite part of our meal.”
Preteens and teens can take the concept of gratitude and make it concrete. When this age group can create something tangible as a reflection of their sense of thankfulness, it makes the feelings of gratitude part of their reality. Preteens and teens can write, draw, or even take photos to represent the things in the day or week that create their feelings of thankfulness.
We can teach our kids to practice gratitude rather than dwell on daily hassles—and we can model the same. One of the best ways to teach our children to count their blessings is to model and practice counting our own.