Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more we express gratitude for what we have, the more likely we would have even more to express gratitude for.
It is so important to show and practice gratitude in our lives. As parents, teachers, caregivers, and other professionals who work with children, it is vital to teaching children the meaning of gratitude from a juvenile age. Kids, who are raised knowing how to feel and express a sense of gratitude, grow up to be well-rounded individuals, with a greater level of self-efficacy and interpersonal skills. In fact, there are several, scientifically proven benefits of gratitude that serve as a tremendous motivation to instill gratitude in the children.
Before we highlight the techniques to use to teach the value of gratitude to children, let’s look at the benefits of being grateful.
The Value of Gratitude
• Gratitude Enhances Empathy: According to a 2012 study conducted by the University of Kentucky, grateful people are possibly engaging more in a pro-social manner, even in the face of aggression, negative feedback, or unkindness. The people with gratitude were less likely to retaliate against others who had wronged them, expressing more empathy and sensitivity towards them.
• Gratitude Improves Physical Health: Another study published in 2012 stated that the grateful people experienced fewer aches, pains, and ailments than other people and lived healthier lives overall. Moreover, those who gained higher on gratitude scales were more likely to actively engage in self-care practices, exercise more, and schedule regular checkups with their doctors.
• Gratitude Improves Sleep: Those who utilize a gratitude journal, writing down things that they are grateful for, reportedly slept better and longer–especially while writing just before bedtime. Another study suggested that writing down the things provided them with a relaxed mind which allowed them to focus more on their sleep and eventually they slept well.
• Gratitude Improves Self-Esteem: Gratitude has been shown to reduce social comparisons, improve athletic and social confidence, and appreciate and celebrate the accomplishments of others. These actions and attitudes lead to improved self-esteem overall and also allow the kids to embrace the things they possess and also appreciate the accomplishments of others.
• Gratitude Can Help Individuals Who Have Experienced Trauma: Not only has research shown that expressing gratitude reduces stress, but doing so might also play a major role in overcoming trauma. A study published in 2003 found that gratitude was a major contributor to resilience following the terrorist attacks on September 11. Additionally, a 2006 study found that Vietnam War Veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Overall, recognizing the things people do have to be thankful for, even during the worst times of their life, could serve as a protective factor that fosters resilience.
• Gratitude Improves Psychological Health: Gratitude has been shown to decrease a wide variety of toxic emotions, such as resentment, prolonged anger, envy, persistent sadness, and regret. Overall, gratitude is intrinsically linked to a sense of well-being, increasing happiness and positive emotions while reducing rates of depression.
• Gratitude Improves Relationships: As important as it is to teach our children to use their manners and say, “Please,” and, “Thank you,” thanking others for their contributions also improves both professional and personal relationships. A 2014 study found that those who express gratitude well were more likely to make and keep new friends than those who did not.
We already talked about the benefits that gratitude possesses on one when he/she decides to show it. Now, we would focus upon the tips which would help parents instill gratitude in their kids.
• Developing a Gratitude practice: Kids, most likely imitate what they see around. If they hear parents being thankful for the small things in their life, the kids would start to do the same and even more. During a meal, having each family member share what they are thankful for, is a wonderful family practice. Parents could even challenge children to think of something new each time.
• Acknowledge and appreciate each other: Role modeling amongst parents is also important when it comes to the relationship. Saying ‘thank you’ for some observations and other little things make the children pick the same language from parents.
• A Helping Family: Sometimes children, reasonably, don’t see all the things that their parents do for them to help the family function. Without the parents acting like a victim about it, they could help children see how each person contributes in their own way towards the betterment of the family. How each of them is a part of a “helping family”. Surely, the younger ones might need help and support with their chores. Children who participate with family chores would naturally begin to appreciate all the other things that their parents do for them.
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