Practicing an attitude of gratitude; simple ways to help kids reflect on the good things in life
This year for my birthday, my husband gave me an envelope with tiny blue paper origami stars. I will admit my first thought was, “I already do this.” But then I realized how well he knew me. “To count your blessings,” he said. His gesture was meant for more than just sitting and assigning a blessing to each little star. These pieces of art were to act as a visual cue and physical reminder to stop and pause to reflect. Those little stars are the best kind of gift.
One of the advantages of having nine years between my second and third child is that I have learned plenty of things with my older kids that I can thoughtfully make adjustments to in my third go-around. I realized that having visual reminders around the house helped me center myself and reflect on the good things in life affected how I parent when the going gets rough.
Helping children reflect on the positive things in their day and their surroundings helps them to appreciate the world and get to know themselves better.
When my oldest daughter was in second grade, she gifted me a handmade book with her own drawings, lovingly titled, “All About My Mom.” In it, she writes some of the things she has observed to be my favorite things. She recalls my love of tea, that I like to draw, my favorite sweatshirt, and my obsession with oatmeal. She knew me then, and she knows me now!
I have kept a journal over the last few years that I use specifically for writing down the things that make me feel happy and bring me joy. I do not necessarily write in this journal daily, but when I feel inspired with gratitude, I carefully jot down something I realize makes me happy at that moment or grateful at day’s end.
In keeping a happiness journal, I have gotten to know myself in ways that perhaps while parenting my children and adulting, I had forgotten.
Reflecting on a happiness journal has proven to be useful for me when my mental health is a struggle, and when life feels complicated, I need to be reminded of the simple joys in life. I believe that visual cues help us reiterate the positive thinking process and, therefore, can be especially useful in finding gratitude and passing that on in our families.
A few things you may consider to help foster an attitude of gratitude with your kids and as a family:
-Ask them each day to tell you at least one thing that made them feel happy.
-Keep an object in a central place that reminds your family to physically count out or reflect on the things they feel grateful for each day. (I keep my little blue origami stars in a vase on the kitchen table.)
-Give each family member their own journal and encourage them to start with writing down simple things they feel give them joy. For example, I like the smell of fresh-cut grass. For a child, it may be something like cuddling with a pet or stuffed animal.
-Encourage kids to pause when they have done something nice for someone else and ask them how they felt afterward. Then ask them how they think it made the other person feel. This helps kids to experience empathy and compassion.
Gratitude can be felt in big and small ways, and we can all benefit from taking time in our day to find them. Letting our kids know that taking time to reflect and get to know ourselves better and those around us will inevitably trickle down into our relationships and what we put out into the world.