Inspiring gratitude in children is a huge gift we can give them. Throughout the Bible, we read verse after verse describing and encouraging the practice of gratitude. And now, there is research backing up the wisdom that’s flowed from these scriptures since their penning.
Effects of Gratitude on Our Health
Dr. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis and leading expert on the science of gratitude, conducted a study on gratitude and found the following:
- can lower blood pressure and improve immune health
- can reduce lifetime risk for depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders
- is a key resiliency factor in the prevention of suicide
- can decrease the likelihood of smoking, alcohol abuse
- blocks toxic emotions like envy, resentment, regret and depression
- is associated with healthy levels of cholesterol
- can facilitate more efficient sleep
- reduces stress hormones and contributes to a healthy nervous system
- lowers levels of creatinine (an indicator of the kidney’s ability to filter waste in the body)
- can improve diet and exercise routines
Holy cow! That’s a ton of benefit to our well-being, emotionally and physically! So, how can we help our children access these benefits?
Inspiring Gratitude in Children
- Model it. Children learn and form habits around things they observe. Therefore, say thank you to children often and sincerely. Be kind to others while in public, expressing gratitude for services rendered. Speak with children about how helpful others are and point out blessings in your midst.
- Express gratitude as families. Set aside time to share things to be thankful for. This may be done by saying grace before dinner, through conversation around meals or on drives to and from school. Sharing more formalized times of gratitude can ensure it becomes a routine part of life going forward.
- Give. Make it a common practice to give things, time, and resources to others, particularly those in need. This allows for children to understand the concept of abundance and to recognize how much they have. Additionally, it also expands their sense of perspective and instills generosity.
- Support children’s autonomy. As children grow, they become familiar with their values and strengths. Within a firm but flexible environment children have the safety to explore who they are. Along the way, they find things they naturally appreciate, both in themselves and in the world.
- Cultivate children’s intrinsic goals. Western culture particularly, steeped in consumerism, is fueled by dissatisfaction with the present and withers in the midst of sustained contentment. Sadly, this doesn’t inspire gratitude in any of us. As a result, we must counter this by helping children find value within. This means we focus on things not associated with image, wealth and status. Help children find activities they love and bring them joy, those that cultivate community and growth.
We hope these five practices for inspiring gratitude in children has sparked your thinking. We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below! And don’t forget to grab your Gratitude Fridge Sign below.
For even more information and ideas on inspiring gratitude in children, have a look at the following articles:
- Psychology Today: 10 Parenting Tips for Inspiring an Attitude of Gratitude
- UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine: Seven Ways to Foster Gratitude in Kids
- Parents Magazine: Teaching Children to Be Grateful
- PBS: 10 Ways to Raise a Grateful Kid
BONUS: “I am Thankful” Coloring Pages
As you find ways to express gratitude together while spending time with family and friends, we thought you might be interested in our “I am Thankful” Coloring Pages. Check out previews of the coloring pages below. These could be great coloring pages for any time of the year, but especially fun to do around the Thanksgiving holiday. Both are great for all ages, though the one with “Thankful” in the middle of the design might be especially good for any adult coloring fans in your family! You can pick up both of these coloring sheets for just $5 here.