Written By: Shannon Huff, Ed.S.
As the weather outside gets colder and the leaves continue to fall, we begin to look forward to the comforts of fall- warm soups, weekend football games, and of course, Thanksgiving. A time to gather together with friends and family to celebrate all we are thankful for. In fact, being thankful is something we can practice all year long. In fact, research has shown than people who experience gratitude have more positive emotions, such as joy, love, and happiness; have fewer negative emotions, such as bitterness, envy, and resentment; have increased feelings of connectedness and improved relationships; experience greater satisfaction with school and improved academic achievement; and even have better physical health than people who don’t take the time to notice and appreciate the good things in their lives.
Parents can help their children develop the attitude of gratitude through a variety of simple acts and activities.
Model practicing gratitude. Emotions are contagious. Express thanks to your family, friends, neighbors, and strangers, and ensure that your children see you behaving gratefully.
Encourage gratitude thinking. For example, if your child does well on a test or in a sporting event, help him or her identify all those who helped along the way (teachers, coaches, teammates, friends, etc.). Encourage your child to say ‘thank you’ in person or by writing a note to someone who made a particular difference.
Share gratitude daily. Make time in the morning, at dinner, in the car on the way to an activity, or before bed to share at least one thing for which each person is grateful.
Reinforce grateful behavior. Watch for grateful behavior or language in your child. Identify it when it happens and reinforce him or her for it.
Use visual reminders. Put notes around the house or in your child’s lunchbook or backpack reminding him or her to be thankful for health, siblings, pets, etc. Send a text to your older child reminding him or her to count their blessings. Share something for which you are grateful.
Keep a journal. Many people spend far more time thinking about how they can correct something that has gone wrong, worrying about something that might go wrong, or simply replaying a failure or setback, than they do basking in what has gone right and being grateful for their everyday blessings. You can help your child notice what goes well in his or her life and build gratitude by keeping a journal. Every night, set aside a few minutes with your child to write down three positive events from the day. These things can be relatively small in importance, or more significant. The positive events can be things that your child brought on or that he or she witnessed in others. The positive events can also be things noticed in nature. You may reflect with your child on why these good things happened, and what can be done to contribute to more of these good things occurring in the future.
We all have struggles in our lives, but we also all have things to be grateful for. Taking the time to recognize and appreciate these things can help build us up into happier, more productive people. Enjoy the fall season, and all the blessings that come along with it.