Imagine the year 2040. Where do you see your child? Are they happy? Are they employed, making money? Do they have friends, a family? Are they healthy and living a full life? We all want the best for our kids, don’t we? We probably want them to have every one of those things listed above.
It’s probably why you work the job you do, invest in their education, help them to eat well, and more.
Well, what if I told you that if you teach gratitude, it could help all those things happen, too? Yup, we are talking gratitude again today because, well, it’s important. On Thanksgiving and beyond. Many, many,articles have been written about it.
So, how can we teach it? There’s no course that you can take, that I know of. But there are seven habits you can cultivate in your child’s life to help them learn how to develop a truly grateful heart.
1. Give up something for awhile. Does this one even need an explanation after this year? If you’ve missed the opportunity to participate in a sport, to attend church, or to gather for a birthday or a loved one’s death in the past 10 months, you know exactly how this works.
We become grateful for things that are no longer a given. But we can practice it, too, by denying ourselves, or our children, something that we or they enjoy. It can be small, and it can be for just a short period of time. But this relatively painless exercise can still teach a powerful lesson on appreciation and gratitude.
2. Slow down and savor things. How many good things do we simply pass by in our busy, busy days? Do we take time to truly savor our dinner before we rush off to practice? Do we stop and really feel the cozy sweater we’ve put on? Do we look around and notice that gorgeous sunset outside the window? Slowing down to notice things, and encouraging our kids to do the same, takes only a moment but helps us not to breeze over our blessings.
3. View things as gifts. We’ve all seen entitled people act out over not receiving what they wanted, and it’s never fun to watch. If we take time to ensure, without guilt, that kids know where their “things”–their talents, their skills, their food, whatever–come from, we help them see that very few things are plopped down in their lap of their own doing. That recognition breeds gratitude!
4. Write it down. It may not be for everyone, but journaling what you are grateful for is worth a try. Writing it down takes time, and that helps you maintain focus on the things you are glad you have. Over time, it can also help train you to look for things, so you have more to write down.
5. Express the gratitude. It’s one thing to feel grateful. It takes it to another level to express it to someone. Thankful for your meal? Tell your server and ask them to pass it on to the staff. Grateful for your spouse for work around the house? Say it! Thankful to your child for doing their schoolwork without complaint–tell them! Sharing gratitude is a great way to model it for children, but it also makes it feel more real for us, too.
6. Acknowledge losses before turning them into gains. It’s easy when we are trying to teach kids to be grateful to make it an immediate practice. But some things that we can ultimately be grateful for really do stink in the moment, especially when it’s a child who has limited perspective. So it’s okay to affirm a loss or disappointment before encouraging someone to think about what they are able to glean from the situation.
7. Be Specific. Being specific means we are paying attention. And that can help the feelings of gratitude hit home more
. Suddenly, we aren’t just thankful that Mom made dinner. We are thankful that she made us warm chili because it’s cold outside, or that she added a special dessert to celebrate an accomplishment. That all brings an air of genuineness to our gratitude practice.
I believe gratitude is an important skill we all need to learn. Practicing is the best way to make these habits stick. These seven ideas can help us really appreciate what we have whether life is going great, or whether it’s challenging. I can’t wait to see what all your kids are grateful for this year!
Have your student make a list of one or more things they are grateful for every day. They can make the list or you can write it for them.
Do that for five days in a row.
Post a picture of the list in the Facebook group with the hashtag #Gratitude2020 by Tuesday, November 24. (If you’re not on Facebook, email it to [email protected] with the subject line GRATITUDE 2020.) Make sure your student’s first name and age is on the picture!
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