Time after time, I flip on the t.v. and see people suffering after natural disasters. Everything they had is gone. Their houses, their clothes and just about all of their belongings got swept away by a flood, hurricane or tornado. It's heartbreaking and always so difficult to explain to my kids. But, it's another reminder, that we need to look at the big picture and be grateful for what really matters.
Last winter, I wrote about How to Teach Kids to be Grateful. The reason I think this is so important is that I don't want my kids to grow up feeling entitled. I want them to appreciate the gifts, both big and small, that come their way. It's important to realize that life isn't easy, but no matter what, we need to try and stay positive.
After doing some research on the topic, I realized that it's pretty easy to help our kids become more grateful. The simplest way I found to teach my kids about gratitude is by talking about 3 Good Things before we go to bed. It's really simple: every night, when my kids are laying in bed, I ask them to tell me 3 things that they are grateful for. It can be anything they want. If they can only think of 1 or 2 things, that's fine too. Hearing what they are grateful helps me know that they are on the right track.
There is actually quite a bit of research that shows the positive effects of this simple routine. Studies reveal those who continue this exercise for one week straight can increase their happiness and decrease depressive symptoms for up to a six-month period.* Doing this with my kids has definitely made me a happier person, and I think it helps to keep them grounded as well.
Ultimately, I want them to know that there is much more to life that "stuff" and it doesn't matter what someone else has. There are people with much more than us and there are people with much less than us as well. Ultimately, we need to be grateful for the more important things in our life like our heath, a roof over our head, family and friends. The other "stuff" we have is just a bonus.
Want a more in depth way to teach kids about gratitude?
Researchers Jeffrey Froh, Katherine Henderson, and colleagues have developed a gratitude curriculum for kids based on Froh’s work studying gratitude in schools. See their gratitude lesson plans here.
Thanks to Mari from Inspired by Familia for organizing The 21 Days of Gratitude Challenge.