7 Ways to Help Your Child Develop Gratitude


1. Foster authentic gratitude.

Gratitude isn’t meaningful when it’s not authentic, so try to avoid forcing expressions of thankfulness. Instead, encourage thoughtful reflection and allow grateful feelings to emerge. Rather than instructing your child to say thank you after a home-cooked meal, talk to them about processes that went into creating the meal. In this way, you can help your child evoke more genuine feelings of gratitude.


2. 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.


3. Volunteer with your child. 

Select a community volunteer project that welcomes children, and spend some time helping others with your child. You and your child are likely to meet new people, be helpful, and experience the gratitude of others. Explain to your child that helping others is a fun way to share your time.


4. Express your gratitude as an example.

When children hear our thoughts and feelings, they learn about verbalizing internal states. The goal here is to help children understand that we can communicate to others what’s going on inside, including feeling grateful. As we mentioned earlier, gratitude ought to be authentic, so express it only when you’re really feeling it. Similarly, don’t place an expectation on children to reciprocate. They’ll express their gratitude when they feel it and are ready to share it.


5. Talk about how kindness makes others feel.

Suppose you and your child are baking a cake for a family member. Encourage your child to predict how the recipient of the cake will feel. The purpose of this is to facilitate your child’s growth around perspective-taking and predicting the reactions of others. If we can learn how to behave in such a way that brings others joy, we can promote greater gratitude.


6. Identify gratitude when you see it.

Once you start looking for examples of gratitude, you’re likely to see it everywhere. You can help your child by pointing out signs of kindness, helpful behaviors, and appreciation. Encourage your child to look for signs of gratitude out in the world. You may cue them to look not only for things people say, but also facial expressions and body language.


7. Not feeling so grateful?

Sometimes it’s hard to feel grateful, particularly when things are not going well in our lives. This is understandable, and we should avoid judging children who do not express gratitude. Should a child exhibit chronic irritability or a pervasive state of negative affect, you may consult a psychologist to determine whether professional help is needed. When a child experiences negative emotions, adults sometimes have a tendency to push those feelings away, but what children need most is to be certain that they are loved and understood.

SPONSOR CONTENT

Helping Your Child Develop Gratitude 
From Magination Press Family

This content was produced by the M Content Studio for a Paid Sponsor and does not reflect the views or opinions of the Mindful editorial staff.

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. Most children develop thoughts and feelings related to gratitude by observing gratitude expressed by others and by having their own experiences of gratitude. 

There are lots of ways that adults can help children develop the cognitive, social, and emotional foundations of gratitude. The suggestions below can be adjusted to meet the varying developmental needs of children.

Bee Still: An Invitation to Meditation
by Frank J. Sileo, PhD

One day, the queen told the bees to get busy and they went scrambling into a tizzy. But not Bentley. He chose to be patient and wait. He decided to look for a place to meditate. Bee Still is a child-friendly introduction to meditation. Includes a Note to Parents and Caregivers with more ideas for introducing meditation into your child's life.

Relaxations: Big Tools for Little Warriors
by Mamen Duch

Imagine that your mind is a huge movie screen. It is blank, and you can play whatever movie you'd like. Do you want to be a piece of spaghetti? Or a butterfly? Or perhaps a shooting star that travels through space? Silence, please. The movie will now begin.

Breathe
by Inês Castel-Branco

Breathe is a conversation between a boy and his mother at bedtime. But this conversation can happen at any time, in any place. This introduction to mindfulness presents a collection of illustrated exercises to help little ones become aware of their breath and their body. Includes a Note to Parents & Caregivers that describes the exercises and their effects in more detail.

BUY THE BOOK

Adapted from Grow Grateful, by Sage Foster-Lasser and Jon Lasser, available from Magination Press. Magination Press Family combines the trusted expertise of the American Psychological Association with the inspiring messages in Magination Press children’s books to provide reliable, accessible information on managing stress and anxiety and promoting mindfulness in children and teens.

Explore More Mindful Books from Magination Press Family