How Gratitude Practices Can Be Brought Into the Family Home
Gratitude is a sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life. Each of us has the ability to feel gratitude and share it with others.
At times in life, we get so caught up in daily tasks and responsibilities that we may lose sight of everything we have to be grateful for. Sometimes, a little practice is required to get back into a natural rhythm of showing how grateful we are, and noticing everything that is so beautiful about life.
But there is so much more to the practice of gratitude than just saying “thank-you” when it’s polite to do so; it is truly expressing your thankfulness from the deep within you. In fact, research now tells us that people who practice gratitude through deeper activities, such as keeping a gratitude journal, are more loving, forgiving, and optimistic about the future. They exercise more frequently, report fewer illnesses, and generally feel better about their lives.
So, why wouldn’t we want our children to practice gratitude too?
Family gratitude practices lay the foundation for satisfaction and success in life. The more we exercise gratitude at home, the more likely our children will express kindness and gratitude in their schools and communities, and later in their lives as adults.
We know that making the effort to practice gratitude will have an overall positive impact in your family. And when it comes to our families, grateful children are happier and more confident, socialise more easily, are more engaged at school, have higher grades and are less materialistic. But even on a good day, finding time to practice gratitude in your own life is a big ask as a busy parent, let alone teaching the art of being grateful to our children.
Practicing gratitude every day is not about ignoring the fact that parenthood, or life, can be difficult – it is about making space for expressions of thankfulness, and teaching your children to do the same. And the best part is, it doesn’t have to take very much time at all – less than five minutes a day can have a huge impact.
Injecting gratitude into your home isn’t always straightforward – each member of your family may cycle through times of being pessimistic or unappreciative. The upside of practicing gratitude regularly is that eventually the members of your family will instinctively start to lift each other up when another falls by reminding one another, through words and actions, how important it is to express gratitude and love of life with each other.
Gratitude is one of the primary ingredients for healthy relationships. A person with a grateful personality is more forgiving, more empathetic and even more likely to say “Thank you” – beyond just when it is polite to do so.
Grateful people take time every day to think carefully about what they can be grateful for. It may be something tiny, but begin expressing and encouraging your children to express something to be grateful for each day. Before long, you will all be able to recognise things to be thankful for without even looking for them.
Gratitude is first role modelled through parents, then it is taught through instruction about the direct ways kids can show kindness and appreciation to others.
Here are 7 simple and effective ways of practicing gratitude in your family:
- 1. thank sales assistants in stores, servers in restaurants, and anyone who provides a service or kindness when you are out and about, in front of your children
- 2. write thank you notes together for anyone who shows your child kindness
- 3. use dinner time to create a ritual of asking questions like, ‘What’s one great thing that happened in school today,’ or ‘Who did something really nice for you today that made you feel special’
- 4. as a family, donate to food drives, back to school collections, toy drives, etc. and explain the needs of others
- 5. begin a bedtime practice of listing all the things your child is grateful for that day
- 6. if they are a little older, encourage your child to keep a ‘gratitude journal’ each day (this will also provide valuable insight into your child’s world!)
- 7. find a volunteering opportunity that can be done with your child
There are so many ways to build up our gratitude muscles, and helping our kids learn to be more grateful people can have a life-long positive impact. Young people are always watching, listening and learning from us, so one of the best ways we can teach them about gratitude is to show them what that looks like in our words, actions and interactions with the world around us. If they see us living our lives from a place of gratitude, it will be more natural for them to follow in our footsteps.
Remember, at the end of the day, there isn’t a right or wrong way to be grateful – it’s your choice as to what makes you feel comfortable and the opportunities you seize to make the most of.