“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold rather a large amount of Gratitude.”
- Winnie the Pooh
This holiday season we will experience many time-honored traditions once again post COVID - traveling to see relatives and friends, attending large social gatherings, and watching stadium packed football games to name a few. Yet despite these positive changes many of us are coping with multiple challenges in our everyday lives.
No matter our circumstances there is much to be grateful for! Practicing gratitude is a skill we can all benefit from no matter our age or circumstances.
What does “Practice Gratitude” mean?
Gratitude describes the state of being grateful by consistently noticing the positive, good aspects of life and being thankful for the things we have.
Gratitude is pausing to notice and appreciate the things we may often take for granted, like having a place to live, food, clean water, friends and family, transportation, technology, seeing people “in-person”, etc.
“Thank you” is an expression of words, appreciation is action, and gratitude is a practice. You can be thankful, appreciative and grateful all at the same time!
Gratitude is not something you are born with. It can be taught, and it can be learned!
What are the benefits of teaching the practice of Gratitude to our children and youth?
“Gratitude is important because it not only helps us feel good but also because it inspires us to do good. Gratitude heals, energizes and transforms lives…Gratitude is about remembering…A French proverb states that Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” Robert Emmons, Ph.D., Gratitude Works
There are many research studies substantiating the benefits of practicing Gratitude. Dr. Emmons points out in his book Gratitude Works, “Gratitude has one of the strongest links to mental health and satisfaction with life of any personality trait, more so than even optimism, hope, or compassion.”
A focus of the CBSG® Program is to increase protective factors and build resiliency in children and youth. Gratitude does both. Studies show that practicing “an attitude of Gratitude” increases joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness and optimism. Practicing Gratitude aligns with the Major Messages Domains I Am, I Can, I Have, I Will, I Believe. It has been shown to improve psychological and physical health; help build meaningful relationships and connections; enhance social awareness skills such as empathy; improve self-awareness, self-confidence and self-efficacy; help to achieve goals; be better able to cope with stress and traumatic memories; and enable a greater sense of purpose and future.
What are ways to teach kids about Gratitude and Gratitude Practices?
Below are twelve suggestions to teach children about gratitude. This is certainly not an exhaustive list – be creative and come up with your own practices.
Make a Gratitude Jar to collect words and drawings of things for which they are grateful.
Keep a Gratitude Journal (written or drawn).
Make a Gratitude Collage as a family.
- Write messages of Gratitude on pieces of heart shaped paper to give to others.
- Use everyday conversations as teachable moments to notice or teach Gratitude.
- Write messages of Gratitude to each family member and hide them to be discovered later.
- At meal or bedtime, reflect upon the Gratitude “Sunshines” of the day.
- Perform acts of service for others (if you can, do them anonymously).
- Look for the silver lining when you experience a “Cloud” (things which don’t go as planned; “don’t like” feelings of sadness, anger, fear, etc.)
- Practice and teach the habit of saying “Thank You”.
- Adapt familiar games to have a Gratitude twist.
- Last, but not least, MODEL Gratitude!
Rainbow Days is grateful for you and your commitment to be a difference maker in the lives of children and youth across our incredible country! We wish you all a wonderful beginning to the holiday season!
CBSG® Program Developer