“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
This is the time of year that we tend to think about gratitude and what we are thankful for. During the month of November I bring out my family’s Thanksgiving plates and cups that say “I am thankful for my family, my friends, the sun and the food that grows,” and our children love it. They enjoy talking about what they are thankful for in their life.
So why do we just talk about what we are grateful for once a year? We should strive to make it apart of our everyday life. Research states that having high levels of gratitude is a recipe for good health. A study conducted by Dr. Robert A. Emmons of the University of California, Davis, states that creating and nurturing gratitude can increase happiness by about 25 percent thus helping people to live happier, more satisfied lives. It also shows that those who are grateful have higher levels of self-esteem, positive thinking, empathy and hope. A study, published in 2010 in the Journal of Happiness Studies, found that those who showed high levels of gratitude reported having stronger GPAs, less depression and envy. Other studies have suggested that it also leads to a happier more content life, less materialism and generally a more positive attitude towards family, friends and school.
So what are some ways that we can work with our children to develop grateful thinking and actions throughout the year? Here is a top 10 list that we came up with:
- 1. Go through toys that your children have outgrown and ask them to choose what they want to give away. Explain to them that the toys will be loved and appreciated by a child in need.
- 2. Do jobs to raise money for a cause. One of my favorites that I saw this past year was a lemonade stand that children had set up to help the earthquake victims in Nepal.
- 3. Volunteer. Ask friends to give a donation instead of birthday presents such as donating a book to your local library. Or take your children to deliver food to your local food bank and help stock their shelves.
- 4. Write thank you notes. Getting our children in the habit of saying thank you through notes is a wonderful way to create a sense of gratitude and appreciation of those who help them.
- 5. Share what they are thankful for. Asking them to share what they are thankful for helps them to value what they have as well as create a more positive attitude.
- 6. Do jobs to earn money if they want to buy something. It helps to develop a sense of ownership and appreciation for what they are buying.
- 7. Do something for someone else. Have them help their Grandmother plant flowers or make cookies for neighbor. It makes them feel good inside as well as more thankful for what they have in their lives.
- 8. Have a Gratitude jar. Fill it with short handwritten notes of what they are thankful for from “Mom taking me to practice everyday” to “Getting a part in the school play.” Every once in a while take a few out and read them out loud.
- 9. Say Thank You. Show your children how important it is to say thank you to others for what they do for you in your day-to-day life such as the waiter when you buy coffee or when someone holds a door for you. Modeling treating others with basic courtesy and respect helps to teach our children to have respect for others. It will also make them more inclined to express gratitude towards others.
- 10. Make a “Giving List.” Create a list of what they would like to give as gifts this holiday to their family and friends rather than just what they want.
Developing a sense of gratitude in our children will help them to live a more fulfilled, happy life. In a world in which it seems many are looking for the key to happiness, maybe simple gratitude is part of the answer. Let’s work to instill this in our children. #happiness #Iamthankful
–Mary & Claire
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