The Power of Gratitude

Date: November 5, 2020 l Author: Odelaisys Saco, MS

“In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, every family can benefit from the power of practicing gratitude together.The word gratitude actually comes from the Latin word, “gratia,” which is also the same word used in this language to mean grace. When we teach our kids to recall things they are grateful for, they are actually becoming more “gracious” or “agreeable” as people!

In the midst of a challenging year, it can be tempting to complain or focus on all the negative things around us. As parents and caregivers, however, we need to lead by example and guide our kids to focus on what they do have, as opposed to what they don’t. Here are five ideas for simple activities to help kids cultivate deeper gratitude in their day to day lives:

1. Three Things
At the end of each day, share 3 things that you are thankful for with your kids. Make sure they are easy to understand and relatable for them. Use this as an opportunity to build up their self-esteem! For example, you can say things like:

- “I’m grateful that this morning we got the chance to have breakfast together.”
- “It was so nice that we could share a car ride to school together. I love spending time with you.”

When you model gratitude, your kids are much more likely to follow suit.

2. Personalized Gratitude Journal
Grab a bunch of their favorite arts and craft supplies and purchase a blank journal. Have each of your kids personalize the cover however they want and instruct them to write down big or small life events that brought them joy. You can make it a habit to all write in your journals together every day after dinner, or at a time that everyone is home together. Make this a conversation and ask open-ended questions to give them ideas on what to write, such as:

- Who or what made you smile at today?
- What did you accomplish today that’s worth celebrating?
- Did you do something today that was scary but you still pushed through?

Having a physical reminder like this with all the things they are grateful for is so helpful to use as a tool that they can come back to and read over when they are having a tough day.

3. Family Gratitude Board
Get everyone in the family involved to create a big poster, corkboard, or book full of photos, drawings, magazine cutouts or phrases of things that each family member is grateful for. This can be a fun project that you work on together over a week, or that you knock out in one afternoon! Find physical representations of things everyone can agree are a blessing to your family, like good health, having a house, pets, sports teams, memorable vacations or trips you took, extended family members, etc.

Not only will this exercise increase gratitude, but also will improve your communication skills and give you quality time together.

Instructions on Making a Gratitude Board

4. Thank You Notes

Take some time out to have your kids write thank you notes to positive people in their life. Perhaps it’s a friend that lent them a listening ear, a trusted adult who inspires them in some way, or someone that they are just happy to have around.

This exercise will allow them to not only be thankful for their support system, but also become an encouragement to someone else at the same time.

5. Community Involvement
Encourage your kids, especially if they are teenagers or nearing young adulthood, to volunteer their time or give generously to an organization whose cause they believe in. This is especially helpful for adolescents who struggle with depression, anxiety, or have low self-esteem. When they help someone else, they are able to see that they matter, have value, and can make a difference in the world. Ideas for this can be:

- Collecting Christmas presents for kids in need during the holidays
- Helping to make a meal or bake for a single mom in your neighborhood
- Volunteering their time at a soup kitchen or at a church outreach

“A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” - Proverbs 15:13

When gratitude is intentional, it becomes contagious. Research even suggests that gratitude is connected with increased productivity, improved physical and emotional health, and decreased bitterness, envy, a sense of entitlement, and so much more. Any one of the five activities mentioned can have a profound effect on the health and wellbeing of not just your kids, but your whole family!