A 2019 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that gratitude is linked to happiness in children by time they’re 5 years old. This means teaching and instilling gratitude in your kids from a young age can help them to grow up to be happier people.
It doesn’t just feel good – research has shown that positive emotions are also good for our bodies, minds and brains, having a giant impact on our overall wellbeing and life to the point that further studies have shown that grateful children tend to be happier, more engaged with hobbies and schoolwork, have better relationships and reported greater satisfaction in general!
In celebration of World Gratitude Day, here are our favourite ways to practise gratitude with your children and raise grateful and happier kids.
Create Gratitude Rituals
Gratitude goes beyond just saying “thank you”, it’s a mindset that can be developed and cultivated. By creating rituals and practises for your children where you can express appreciation and thanks for the good things in your lives together you can bond with and connect with your children while instilling the habit of being thankful. You could
- Go around the table before dinner every night, each saying something you are thankful for and why. You might be thankful for the things you have received, the people who surround you or the fun things you have experienced – have your children practise being grateful for something different each night
- At bedtime, say three things you appreciate about each other
- At the start of each week, share one nice thing you will do for someone that week
- Start a gratitude journal. We love the 3 Minute Gratitude Journal for Kids
Acknowledge and Appreciate Each Other
Gratitude strengthens relationships and leads to more positive interactions, helping you feel closer and more connected. Furthermore, it creates a snowball effect – when you feel grateful for someone else’s kindness, you are more likely to behave in the same way. AND when you thank someone for their actions, they are more likely to do the same again. Set an example for your children – your children will organically learn things from you so if you don’t practise gratitude then they won’t either. Go beyond a simple “Thank You” by expressing how it made you feel and why. For example, you may thank your partner for making dinner or your child for cleaning up after themselves
- “Thank you for making dinner. It made me feel really loved because you noticed I was really tired and you made one of our favourite meals” or
- “Thank you for cleaning up your toys. It makes me feel happy and proud because you listened when I ask you to pack your toys away after playing and you’re being responsible and grown up!”.
These are especially perfect to use at the end of a long or tough day.
Look on the Bright Side
By celebrating the present and dispelling negative emotions, instilling this kind of cognitive therapy in your children can not only build more resilience but also cultivate a higher sense of self-worth. Without invalidating their feelings, encourage them to shift from a negative to a positive mindset. Ask questions to see the other side of a bad or unwanted situation or play a game where you rephrase a complaint to a positive. For example
- “Even though it’s raining for my birthday party there are lots of fun games we can play inside”
- “Even though I don’t like tomatoes, they are making me strong and healthy”.
- "Even though we are stuck in traffic, it means I get to spend more time with you"
Teaching this from an early age programs your child’s mind to automatically fire in a positive way.
Gratitude Jar or Tree
A gratitude jar is an amazingly simple and easy project to bond with your children while practising gratitude, with profound effects for your wellbeing and outlook. It only takes a couple of steps
Over time, the jar will fill up with beautiful memories and reasons to be thankful. If you are ever having a hard time, take a few notes out of the jar to remind yourselves of everything that is good in your lives and you can even look back on these years later with your children.
A similar project is a Gratitude Tree. Watch this video for a quick how to.