Teach children gratitude


When it comes to gratitude, some of us are a little lost. Do we really even know what it is? Gratitude is both the quality of being thankful and the ability to show appreciation and kindness. It is all about the goodness of life, and recognizing that the sources of goodness are outside of us. The University of California-Berkeley’s program “Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life” states that expressing gratitude can impact our mental and physical health. It strengthens our immune system, lowers blood pressure, and reduces symptoms of illness, anxiety and depression. You can sign me up. You might wonder how to teach gratitude to your children or other kids around you. Here are a few ways to start:

Lead by example:

Kids have a special talent for copying what they see, even if it’s something we don’t want them doing. The best way for your kids to know and live a life of gratitude is to see it in you. This usually starts with a simple “please” and “thank you” and can develop into volunteering as a family. If your children want to volunteer on their own, encourage them to do so. Make sure they will be safe and supervised the whole time.

Be patient: It may take a while for younger kids to understand what gratitude is and what it means to them. If your youngster is grateful for a favorite toy or book, appreciate that and thank them for sharing it with you. The more comfortable they feel about sharing these “small” things, the more comfortable they will be later about recognizing the “big” things.

Learn as a family:

Let’s be honest — we all could use a few reminders onhowtoexpressour gratitude. Start an activity with your family that can take place daily or several days a week. Spend 10-15 minutes each night letting the members of your family talk about their day — discuss the high and low points and any lessons that can be learned. Always end the conversation on a positive note by each of you stating somethingyouaregrateful for.

Understand their struggles: As adults, we can find it hard to live in a world of instant gratification and little gratitude — we need everything, and we needed it yesterday. Our kids are going through the same rollercoaster. There is no shortage of TV, Internet and social interactions that say they deserve this or that — and right now. We all know how hard it is to hear “no,” so keep that in mind when teaching gratitude. When it comes to whateachpersonvalues, the answer will always be different. It is important for children to know that not everyone thinks or feels the same about certain things, and to respect other viewpoints around them. This all takes practice — it won’t happen overnight. Be patient and consistent, and who knows, they might just surprise you.

Kellie Resnick is a youth educator for Mental Health America in SheboyganCountyandis a member of the HSC2020 Mental Health Committee