Got Gratitude?

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According to psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, gratitude can actually improve your physical health and mental alertness. And if that doesn’t convince you, they also suggest people who express gratitude also are more likely to offer emotional support to others. It sounds like a win-win, so why not give it a try?

Truly give thanks. The art of gratitude is acknowledging and offering. The first step is understanding what you have to be grateful for and the second step is offering the thanks. Whenever possible share the thanks with someone if they play a part in what you are grateful for. Now is as good a time as ever to start or reinvigorate a practice of gratitude for yourself and also with your family. Here are some tips to help you:

It can start with a simple thank you.

Do you thank people who do small favors and go out of their way? For example, if someone holds a door open for you, thank them. How about someone who helps you find something in a store?

Thank you notes are lovely and touching and they help to develop relationships.

Thank you notes are polite and demonstrate an enduring sense of thanks. Encourage your children to write them by hand for that extra added love, and know that a text or email will suffice. Consider having your children write them for actions and experiences (like lunch out with a friend or a sleepover at Grandma’s), not just for physical gifts.

Model kind and grateful behavior by thanking your family members.

Do you thank your children when they do something kind? How about your spouse, partner, or even your own parents? Not only will it boost their mood it might also encourage them to be kind moving forward. It can start with small thanks, like, “thanks for getting yourself out the door without my help this morning,” or “thanks for picking me up from practice so I didn’t have to walk.” It should gradually and organically evolve into a heartfelt gratitude that comes authentically.

You can start a practice of gratitude at the dinner table.

Try having each person give thanks for something that happened that day - no thanks is too small or big. Make a routine of it so you make it part of your daily life. Consider gratitude for family members, a good class at school, or the food on the table. Every now and then try to include larger-scale thanks outside of the family (maybe tie it into current events).  There’s always something to be grateful for, and on the difficult days this will help children to keep perspective on the challenges.

Some people enjoy keeping a journal of thanks.

This can be a wonderful addition to any routine you have with your children to start or end a day. You might consider keeping a common journal with younger children and allowing older children some privacy with their own.

Try doing something to demonstrate gratitude - truly give thanks.

Brainstorm something you can do as a family or you or your child can do for someone you’re grateful to.

Give back to the greater community and offer your time and effort through community service.

You can help out at your children’s school or support an organization with a mission and vision you can get behind.

I dedicate my thanks and this entry to my children’s teachers. We are in the midst of parent-teacher conferences at this time of year, and I am reminded of what a commitment they have each made to our family and our community. I’ve been out of the classroom a while now, and as I enter as a parent I am continually impressed with the passion my children’s teachers authentically show as they engage in conversation. Each of them welcomed my husband and me to their classroom and focused on our kids as learners and members of the community, not as the grades they get or how well behaved they are. I am encouraged, inspired, and grateful for teachers who take the time to truly know my kids, who pay attention to how they learn, and who teach with their hearts and minds. Thank you!