How to Practice Gratitude and Teach Your Kids

How to Practice Gratitude and Teach Your Kids

December 27, 2021

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Practicing gratitude invites joy into your life. It improves mental health, boosts relationships with others, and helps you to notice little wins you may not have seen before. However, understanding complex ideas, like learning how to practice gratitude, can be challenging for kids. One of the simplest ways to teach your kids is by modeling the behavior yourself.

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What is Gratitude?

Gratitude quite literally means being thankful. It’s not just saying thank you, but expressing that appreciation and returning that kindness in some way. When you feel gratitude, you are pleased by something someone did for you or pleased by the results of something that happened in your life.

Every time you say thank you to someone, you show a form of gratitude. However, when you “Count your blessings,” you are also consciously appreciating the things you have, which don’t necessarily need a thank you. You could be thankful for a roof over your head, food on your plate, or clothes on your back. Being grateful for the good that comes in your life will make you happier and more satisfied.

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photo: Gabrielle Henderson via Unsplash

How to Practice Gratitude

Gratitude is essential if you want to foster relationships with friends and family, cultivate a habit of appreciating the little things, and adopt a positive mindset overall. According to The National Center for Biotechnology, there are several associations between gratitude and well-being. But, before you can show appreciation, you have to step in and build your capacity for gratitude. You have to retrain your brain to start being thankful for even the little things in life. There are two steps to practicing gratitude:

  1. You affirm the good things you’ve received
  2. You acknowledge the role other people played in providing your life with goodness. 

One of the most powerful ways to have more joy and less stress is to grow your heart with gratitude. Here are a few simple ways to start practicing gratitude in your life:

1. Keep a Gratitude Journal

Stop by your local dollar store and grab a notebook of any kind. Make it a daily practice to write down what you were grateful for that day. It could be as simple as I am thankful I ate three meals today. A gratitude journal helps you recall good moments in your life. Even young kids can mimic this practice by drawing instead of writing what they’re thankful for.

2. Remember the Bad

This may seem counterproductive, but it’s important to remember times in your life that weren’t so good so that you can be thankful that you aren’t in those times now. When you remember how difficult life used to be, you can see how far you’ve come. This is fertile ground for gratefulness. Remind your kids of times where they may have failed, when they finally succeed, so they can understand the path it took them to achieve that success.

3. Think About Your Relationships

Think about your relationships with your family and friends. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What have I received from this person?
  • What have I given to this person?
  • What troubles or difficulties have I caused? 

Taking a moment to think about what others have done for you and what you’ve done for others puts you in a mindset to be thankful for the relationships you have in your life. Kids tend to exist in a self-focused world. Stepping into others’ shoes can be an important reminder of how their actions affect others.

4. Make a Vow to Practice Gratitude

When you make an oath to perform a specific behavior, it increases your likelihood of doing it. To do this, simply write your gratitude vow such as: “I vow to count my blessings every single day.” Post it where you will see it every day as a reminder. Make it a part of your morning routine to cultivate gratitude and positivity all day.

5. Appreciate Being Human

There’s so much in life that we take for granted. The ability to touch, taste, smell, hear, and see are all incredible things we have as humans. Seeing the fantastic miracle of being human helps us have a lens of gratitude. Encourage your kids to stop when they’re in mid-activity, like eating or taking a walk, and use their senses to notice their environment.

6. Use Visual Reminders

The biggest obstacle to practicing gratitude is forgetfulness and lack of mindful awareness. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we tend to forget to be thankful for what we have. Give yourself visual reminders that help you remember to practice gratitude every day. This can be post-it notes, other people, or even objects.

7. Show Your Gratitude to Others

Once you’ve found reasons to be thankful, don’t forget to show others how grateful you are. You can do this through writing, saying thank you, smiling, or various other ways. Showing gratitude not only makes you feel good but it strengthens your relationships with others. Help your kids engage in simple acts of kindness that are easy for them to complete or have some fun and make it a daily challenge to do one act of kindness.

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photo: Brett Jordan via Unsplash

6 Ways to Show Gratitude

The best way to practice gratitude is to show appreciation to others. It is also the easiest way to illustrate practicing gratitude to your kids with real actionable things they can do. Here are a few meaningful ways to express gratitude to others both grown-ups and kids can try:

1. Write a Thank You Note

You may think snail mail is outdated, but many people still love to get cards and letters in the mail. Additionally, you can send it as an email, text, or message on social media. Many times just writing a simple thank you note means more to someone than anything else because you’ve taken time to sit down and write it. Plus, it’s a nice memento they can keep forever if they choose. 

2. Tell the Person How Much They Mean to You

If you appreciate someone, tell them why they are such a special person, how their qualities enhance your life or give them a list of things you are thankful for. You can do this in person, over the phone, or even in text. Sometimes just saying something kind is enough.

3. Spend Time With People

Spending time with someone you appreciate is always a great way to show them how much you love and appreciate them. Schedule a time to eat lunch or have a play date with the kids. If you can’t do it in person, you can always make it a virtual meeting. Time spent together is meaningful. 

4. Just Smile

A simple smile says more than words could ever say for many people. If you are at a loss for words and want to show gratitude, sometimes a simple smile is all you need to give. You could even add in a thank you with a smile. Not only will it make you feel good, but it will make the other person feel good too!

5. Pay It Forward or Pay it Back

You may not have the best way to show your appreciation right at the moment, but if someone did something for you, you can always pay it back or pay it forward to someone else. If you want to return the favor to a friend or family member, you could help them with their garden, deliver their favorite dessert, or send them a gift card to get a coffee. Gestures like these can brighten up anyone’s day. 

6. Just Say Thank You

It’s that simple… Thank You! Thank you is sometimes the most powerful way to express gratitude. It may seem insignificant, but it can make a huge impact on the person you are saying it to. Your words are powerful, and saying thank you shows you are genuinely grateful.

For more ideas check out this list of 50 Acts of Kindness You Can Do With Your Family.

Life is full of give and take, but the more you appreciate the little things, the happier you will be. We hope these tips have offered you some helpful guidance on how to practice gratitude and how to teach your kids to do the same. 

What are your favorite ways to show appreciation? Share some ways you and your family practice gratitude on our Local Anchor Facebook group.

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