Saying thank you is easy. We (mostly) do it every day, without giving it much thought. Someone hands you change at a store, you say thank you. At the bottom of your emails, you write “thanks!” just before adding your name. And next week, at Thanksgiving, however you celebrate the day, you may mention something you’re thankful for — maybe it’s the person taking a walk with you or the table full of amazing pies.
But as a new set of parenting strategies from the Making Caring Common project at Harvard notes, “Gratitude is about more than saying thank you or saying you feel grateful.” If we want to help kids truly develop gratitude, adults need to go a step further — they need to teach kids to notice (who or what we’re grateful for) and think (about why we’re grateful), on a regular basis. And, as the study notes, “Because some kids can find it difficult to understand why they’re grateful, it’s also important for trusted adults to share or model their own gratitude.” When this happens, kids will not only better understand what gratitude really means, but it will help them “feel good about their gratitude.”
Below are four key steps from Making Caring Common for adults to try to help kids learn how to notice and think about the people and things they are thankful for.
1. Practice looking
Encourage kids to practice looking for one person or thing they’re grateful for. You can briefly explain what it means to feel grateful, such as “to appreciate how someone or something makes us feel because of the things they do or make possible for us.” Together you can try this gratitude search activity, looking for sources of gratitude like “something or someone that makes me laugh” or “someone that helps or supports me, even when I don’t ask.”