Why You’ll All be Thankful for Years to Come

With Thanksgiving upon us, there’s no better time for an attitude-gratitude makeover for you and your family.

Gratitude is more than just a parenting topic de rigueur. A growing body of research strongly suggests there’s something to this gratitude thing. It’s been linked with higher levels of happiness, physical, social and emotional wellbeing.  And it helps build character, which is the foundation for making good, moral decisions.

In their book “Making Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character,” researchers Jeffrey J. Froh and Giacomo Bono emphasize that at the heart of gratitude is social connections. It’s a simple formula. Froh and Bono write: “Gratitude alerts people to the valuable relationships in their lives, it reinforces the kindness of benefactors, and it motivates them to reciprocate kindness to their benefactors or even extend kindness to others.”

Even more basic, engaging in gratitude means you’re thinking about others and not just yourself. So acting with gratitude is a sort of antidote to today’s selfie-obsessed, oversharing social-media culture, where we’re constantly in digital overdrive with instant gratification just a click away.

Here are some tips from Making Grateful Kids:

Talk the Talk: Say “thank you” in front of your kids. Explain why you appreciate the kindness of the gratitude giver and how the person’s actions helped you.

Emphasize Empathy & Provide Perspective: Show empathy and how you’re willing to help others going through a difficult time. Teach your kids that everyone has problems, and some are far more serious than your/their own. For example, by participating in a food drive, children often come to realize that many people must regularly go without food – a sobering reality. Ask your children how they think these people feel, knowing they have no idea where their next meal will come from. Then, ask your kids how they would feel if they were in that situation. Perspective will likely make their own issues pale in comparison and can be a powerful mood-lifter.

Get Kids to Give Gratitude a Go: Kids can practice gratitude with their friends, family and classmates. Teach your child how to tune into her friend’s needs and wants, and then how to show consideration (sharing her toys during a play date, allowing a friend to be first up at the video game console). Your child can also “pay it forward” by modestly using her own talents and strengths to, say, help a friend master reading/tie her shoes/play a sport. The added value: your child will learn what it feels like to be appreciated for her own acts of kindness.

“Making Kids Grateful” authors Froh and Bono list 32 strategies in all, with age appropriate approaches for everyone from toddlers to teens. Even for adults, it’s quite the education! Trust me, you’ll be thankful for the information.

Want to learn more? Check out:

When Does Gratitude Bring Better Health? By Susan Pinker, The Wall Street Journal

The Science of Gratitude, narrated by Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon, WNYC

The Greater Good Science Center, the University of California, Berkeley

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