SHINE A LIGHT ON GRATITUDE
It's a familiar challenge: Getting children to feel appreciation for what they have (rather than complaining about what they don't!). Some of that self-centeredness is developmental; young children are, by nature, selfish. But research tells us we can cultivate gratitude in children. It can be a powerful antidote to the sense of entitlement that seems to permeate our culture, and can lead to better mental and physical health for a child, besides. And when you cultivate gratitude in your child, you're likely to experience a sense of thankfulness -- and delight -- in your own life as well.
Here at Doing Good Together, we want to express our deepest gratitude to you for your donations, your kind words, and your ongoing support.
-Jenny Friedman, Executive Director
THE PRACTICE OF GRATITUDE
Make a Difference....
Start a thankfulness ritual. At dinner, breakfast or just before bed have each family member share three things that made them happy, or that they're thankful for.
Track your gratitude. Doing this creatively can make your efforts more focused and fun.
Keep a family gratitude journal. Decorate a spiral notebook
Gratitude Treewhere everyone can write or draw things they appreciate. Choose a day (perhaps Thanksgiving) to read all the entries aloud.
Create a gratitude jar. Place a glass jar alongside colorful strips of paper and fun pens on your kitchen table. Family members can deposit their gratitude ideas in the jar. (Or, alternatively, hang them on a tree branch.) Invite visiting family and friends to contribute as well. When the jar is full, read them to one another, and then make the strips into a paper chain. Hang the chain from your kitchen ceiling or along a window.
Cover a windo w or wall with sticky notes, each expressing appreciation for something.
Focus on thank-yous. Encourage your children to write notes, not just for presents, but also for the people who make a difference in their lives - teachers, coaches, babysitters, bus drivers, etc.
Model gratitude. Compliment the chef when you have a nice meal out, express gratitude to a friend who lends a hand, thank your spouse for cleaning the bathroom, and express appreciation for that crazy, mild winter. Especially thank your children when they do something you appreciate. You'll you notice them following your example.
Slow down. This is probably the most difficult step, but it's hard to be grateful if you're rushing around. Take time to realize how much you appreciate the things one might easily take for granted - clean water from the tap, the smell of a flower, a warm house, a new pair of shoes. Express your thankfulness out loud so your children become attuned to the value of gratitude for everyday wonders.
BEAT OF A THANKFUL HEART
Talk About It...
Here are ways to talk about gratitude with children.
- Our blogger's dinner ritual begins with the question, "Who have you helped today and who has helped you?" This inspires gratitude for what others have done for you, while also motivating each family member to reach out.
- In one minute, see if you can brainstorm 20 things you're grateful for - perhaps before you get to school in the morning.
- Finally, be aware of "reverse envy." When you talk about the importance of being grateful because you have so much more than others, it may inspire guilt rather than gratitude. Focus on positive appreciation, rather than making comparisons.
Learn About It...
An Awesome Book of Thanks by Dallas Clayton, a whimsical book for any age child or adult, reminds us of all we have to be grateful for. Wonderful illustrations.
"He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has." - Epictetus
"We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." - Thornton Wilder