Embracing Gratitude

If your Thanksgiving holiday celebration is anything like ours, you’re probably focused on spending time with your family, relaxing, and of course, eating! All of those things are worthwhile pursuits - especially eating - but how do we honor the spirit of giving thanks, and when is it appropriate to teach gratitude to our little ones?

As it turns out - a study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that gratitude is linked to happiness in children by age 5. Meaning, laying the foundations for experiencing and expressing gratitude now could help your kids grow up to be happier people. But how?

Raising Grateful Children

According to the Raising Grateful Children project, full expression of gratitude is an experience with four parts: noticing, thinking, feeling and doing. What do we notice in our lives for which we can be grateful? What do you think about why you have been given the things that make you feel grateful? How do special things make you feel? And finally, what are some things you can do to express appreciation for a person, place or thing? I’m personally a big fan of a home-made thank you note.

Noticing, Thinking, Feeling

Be mindful. Be present. Put down the phone (sorry!). Show your kids that there’s so much to appreciate - the smell of freshly cut grass or the sound of the rain. Let them lead - indulge your child when they wants to stop and literally smell the flowers or walk on a ledge, or jump in a puddle.


Three Things:  At bedtime, tell your child three things you like about them. Usually, my daughter wants to reciprocate and share three things she likes about me! And I gotta say at the end of a challenging day, no sound is sweeter (except maybe the sound of silence.) It’s a beautiful way to model gratitude and fill your child’s well of self-esteem.

How Would You Feel Without It?:   Especially around the holidays when the focus can feel entirely about getting things, play this game any time of day. Ask your kid how they would feel without certain things they may take for granted. This reminds them how different life would be without things they think of as normal (looking at you, iPad).

Gratitude Jar:   Have your child suggest (or write if they can) things they are grateful for,as they think of them throughout the year and write them down on a slip of paper to be placed in a “gratitude jar.” On Thanksgiving, open the jar and read them to experience the gratitude all over again

bonus: modeling!

Show your kids how kindness works (you can start small by simply using “please” and “thank you”) and then model the heck out of gratitude. Let them know the things in your life that you feel grateful for and show them the things you do to express your appreciation for those things.

Want more? Check out the Raising Grateful Children project or take their quiz. And have a very grateful and happy Thanksgiving.

Article by: Jessica Kivnik