With Thanksgiving around the corner, you’re likely thinking of ways you can teach your child about gratitude. But why is it so important that you do so?
Benefits in childhood
There are immediate benefits for a child learning about gratitude. Studies have shown that children who are taught to be grateful receive health and social benefits such as:
- Reduced stress
- Increased happiness at school
- Better performance in school
- Fewer stomachaches and headaches
- Improved relationships
- Reduced materialism
Benefits in later life
According to Dr. Jeffrey J. Froh of Hofstra University, teenagers who were grateful had more self-control, and a recent study suggests that gratitude may reduce aggressive or violent behaviors. Being able to put themselves in another person’s shoes allows children to care for and relate to others. Gratitude shows people that they have benefited from the kindness of others, and so in turn they are more likely to perform kind acts themselves.
Additionally, Psychology Today reports that “grateful people are found to be generally happier, with more social connections and fewer bouts of depression, which affects 20.9 million American adults.”
Age-appropriate ways to teach your child gratitude
It’s never too late to start teaching your child to be grateful.
Toddlers may not yet fully grasp the concept of being grateful, but they are beginning to understand that people do things to make them happy, which is one part of the gratitude equation.
Between the ages of two and four, you can begin introducing concepts of gratitude such as goodwill, empathy, and saying thank you. Some examples include:
- Asking your preschooler what their favorite part of their day was
- Thanking your child for a kind act such as a hug or sharing
- Talking about the non-material things that make you happy
- Having your child help you with thank-you notes, whether it’s writing their name or decorating
- Asking your child to draw a picture of something they are grateful for
- Discussing feelings with your child, for example: “Do you think the new girl in your class is sad because she doesn’t know anybody yet? What do you think you could do to help her?”
- Letting your child see you donating to charity or helping another person
- Allowing your child to help with age-appropriate chores
As always, patience and consistency are key in helping your child learn gratitude. No matter the time of year, gratitude will give your child several important benefits that will improve their life both now and in the future.