Teaching gratitude to Children: A Gift Money Can't Buy
Teaching gratitude to children is giving them a gift money can't buy. Once they learn to be thankful for the small things in their worlds, they've learned a skill that lasts a lifetime, boosts moods, and helps prevent depression. Some easy ways to introduce the concept include keeping a gratitude journal, looking for small signs that others love you, finding two things each day that bring joy, and keeping something to look forward to. During these lazy summer days, have kids make their own gratitude journals from things you have around the house (construction paper, recycled cards, etc). Let them clip pictures from magazines of things that make them happy to add to the back and front covers. Ask them to keep the journal for at least a week and document the people, places, things, and events that they are grateful for. Help kids become sleuths and look for clues that others care about them. Help them identify signs of love: Dad helps you learn to tie your shoes. Mom makes sure you have clean laundry. Grandma keeps her freezer stocked with your favorite ice cream. Your dog wags his tail when he sees you coming home. Teach them that even rules and boundaries that parents set are signs that they are cared for and loved. After all, rules keep them safe and help ensure that their needs are met. Have them experiment with making a loved one's day by writing Mom, Dad, or Grandma a note of thanks for these gestures of love that usually go unnoticed. Challenge the kids to find at least two things in each day that bring them joy. These can be simple things such as catching fireflies, throwing rocks in a pond, or finding a dandelion full of unspent wishes. Encourage them to always keep something to look forward to: family game night, a favorite snack in the evening, a weekend campfire in the backyard. Teaching gratitude encourages good manners and a positive outlook on life. Research shows that if you focus on the positive, it is difficult to remain depressed, and the techniques mentioned here are often used by children's therapists to help with treating depression. Soon the age-old summertime mantra will pop up: "Mom! I'm bored!" It's a good time to get out the gratitude journals and help them see all the good things they have in their lives.