Teaching children about gratitude has become increasingly popular as families and schools have recognized the importance of social-emotional learning. We want children to develop the capacity to take the perspective of others, appreciate acts of kindness, and experience feelings of gratitude. Recent psychological research on gratitude confirms what parents and caregivers have long known: feeling grateful is good for us. A review of the scientific literature on gratitude1 compiled dozens of studies that link our gratitude to wellness. For example, researchers have found that gratitude is associated with: physical health stronger relationships greater likelihood of forgiving better sleep decreased stress In many cases, we're not sure if feeling grateful causes these outcomes or if the outcomes cause gratitude (perhaps those who have stronger relationships become more grateful). It's also possible that these factors don't have a direct, causal relationship, but rather they're just correlated or associated. Even so, we know that those who are grateful are more likely to experience these positive outcomes. Feeling grateful is good for us. Some researchers have been able to demonstrate in experimental conditions that thinking about that for which we are grateful makes us feel better. For example, simply making lists of things for which we are grateful can make us feel better, and those good feelings can persist for months. Gratitude lists take only a few minutes, but can have a powerful, positive impact on our affect. Unfortunately, most of the research on gratitude has been conducted with adults, so we're still learning how young children learn about and experience gratitude. It's possible that young children have been overlooked by researchers because of assumptions regarding a child's ability to think about others' feelings. While the capacity to take someone's perspective is still developing in early childhood, we know that children can read the facial expressions of others and that feelings of gratitude are emerging. This is an exciting developmental period in which families and schools can play an active role in helping children learn about gratitude. Picture books are a great starting point, as children use stories to identify with characters and makes sense of the world. Grow Grateful tells the story of a girl who goes on a camping trip with her teacher and classmates and learns about gratitude. Following the story is a section for adults that includes information about gratitude and activities for young children to engage them in hands-on experiences about feeling grateful. Here's one of the suggested activities from the back of Grow Grateful: Create grateful art Get out some art materials and work with your child to make something creative around the theme of gratitude. For example, cut out pictures from old magazines that represent things for which you are grateful and then glue them to poster board. Hang up your gratitude collage as a reminder of the things for which you’re thankful. When doing this, let your child select his or her own pictures, as gratitude is individualized and personal. SinceRead More
About Jon LasserJon Lasser, PhD, is a psychologist, school psychologist, professor, and program director of the school psychology program at Texas State University. At Texas State, he has developed and taught graduate courses for the school psychology program and has also taught the freshman first-year experience course. Jon holds a bachelor’s degree in Plan II liberal arts from the University of Texas at Austin, a master’s degree in human sexuality education from the University of Pennsylvania, and a doctorate in school psychology from the University of Texas at Austin.
Gratitude is a complex experience of thoughts and feelings that we have in relationships with others. Psychologists believe that gratitude is an important part of our overall well-being and that having gratitude leads to greater happiness and better interpersonal relationships. Most children develop thoughts and feelings related to gratitude through social learning (i.e., observing gratitude expressed by others) and by having their own experiences of gratitude.Read More
Nurturing happiness can be very similar to the cultivation of a garden. Yes, you need initial resources to build the garden, but it is the care of the garden that makes it successful. As a parent, you strive to provide the essential resources for your child’s well-being and happiness like love, support and stability, but your child also can make choices and do things that impact her happiness.Read More