by Rebeccah Minazadeh
A key area found in the book Resilient Children is helping your child to build emotional and self-awareness skills. In this article, we explore gratitude, an integral part of happiness, and discuss how we can teach gratitude to our children.
In 2006, Nansook Park and Christopher Peterson conducted a study to learn how parents described their children’s strengths; they found that gratitude is most strongly correlated with life satisfaction.¹ Another study demonstrated a correlation between gratitude and greater social support and protection from depression and anxiety. Moreover, The American Psychological Association has discovered a correlation between gratitude and children’s use of their strength to better the community, to engage in schoolwork and hobbies, to have higher grades, and experience less depression, envy and materialistic attitudes.²
The following are ways that we can share and practice gratitude with our children:
1. Be an example.
You can role model gratitude for your child by expressing your gratitude in words, writing and artwork. Small gifts of reciprocity show children that a grateful attitude is a value.
2. Spend quality time with a child.
One study of gift-giving in sororities found that new pledges felt most grateful when they felt cared for, understood and valued by their sorority sisters, fostering a sense of community and friendship among them.(3) The single most effective factor in buffering children against the effects of abuse is having a mentor, an authority figure who shows that he/she cares. Spending quality time with a child and being fully present, with no distractions, will give your child a sense of gratitude for you and the things you both share.
3. Support your child’s autonomy.
A firm and gentle, democratic/authoritative parenting style supports children’s sense of autonomy. By acknowledging and supporting children’s strengths, talents, and hobbies, we allow them to take ownership and to gain a sense of appreciation for themselves.
4. Encourage intrinsic rather than extrinsic goals.
Intrinsic goals include healthy and loving relationships, personal goals, and helping the community, in contrast to goals like money and popularity. A role model can help a child meet his/her need for competency, belongingness, autonomy, personal development, happiness and success by valuing these goals and by acknowledging the child’s success as the goals are being accomplished.
5. Help a child discover what matters to him/her.
Many children gravitate toward a favorite skill, animal, or hobby. It’s our job as mentors and parents to help them turn that intrinsic passion into a life purpose. We can begin by first being aware of their specific interests in social issues. We can encourage them to talk about them and to learn more. Finding a means to help them contribute to a cause that they believe in allows them to connect to something larger than themselves, fostering a deeply rooted sense of belonging and gratitude.
6. Work with children on exercises on self–awareness and emotional skills found in Resilient Children.
Check out the “ Box of Feelings” exercise in Resilient Children for a great tool to talk to your child about gratitude in a way that is easy, safe and fun.
Algoe, Sara B., Jonathan Haidt, and Shelly L. Gable. “Abstract.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 27 Nov. 0005. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.
Assessment, Psychological, 2011, Vol. 23, No. 2, 311–324, © 2011 American Psychological Association, and 1040-3590/11/$12.00 Doi: 10.1037/a0021. 1040-3590/11/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0021590 Measuring Gratitude in Youth: Assessing the Psychometric Properties of Adult Gratitude Scales in Children and Adolescents (n.d.): n. pag. Web.
“Character Strengths and Happiness among Young Children: Content Analysis of Parental Descriptions – Springer.” Character Strengths and Happiness among Young Children: Content Analysis of Parental Descriptions – Springer. N.p., 01 Sept. 2006. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.
“Seven Ways to Foster Gratitude in Kids.” Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.