Building gratitude into your child’s life: ‘Thanks’

An attitude of gratitude goes a long way to building a healthy community. “Thank you” is not just polite and good manners, but foundational to relationships. It develops a focus on others, and over time can improve mental health. It builds optimism and confidence when we focus on what is going well, and what we are grateful for.

When we verbalize these things or record them, we imprint them on our minds and build positive brain pathways. You can get very creative in the ways you record them.

Take the opportunity at a meal time to say one thing each person is thankful for that day. Recognize any suggestion, however small or unusual.

Say grace, thanking God for what has happened during the day, for His provisions, His care and expressions of love. It can be good practise to have the children lead as they learn at an early age to speak out their thanks in front of others.

As a family, keep a gratitude diary that you go back over at the end of the week or the term or the year. Coloured pens and post it notes make it creative.

Celebrate in a special way at the end of the year for a major thing you are thankful for.

When celebrating birthdays each person gets to say what they are thankful for about the birthday person.

Send letters or cards or emails or texts of gratitude to family, friends, neighbours, teachers. A lot of school principals only hear from us when things go wrong or are concerning, make their day with a compliment!

Participate in a “pay it forward” task.

The practise of saying “thanks” and giving the reason, e.g. “Thanks for being so kind and waiting for me” keeps your focus on the often lesser noticed but important things. As a parent, on some days we need to look hard to find something we are thankful for in our child, but keep hunting, it’s important for them and you! Being strength based in our comments is a powerful tool to build both confidence and healthy self esteem. This brings hope and the possibility of change e.g. “Thanks for showing me that you are listening, your listening skills are improving.”

By the way, thanks for reading this blog, I hope you find that adding these little words to your language has some big outcomes!

Colleen Houghton
Kids COACH coordinator of Community Mentoring, Crossway Lifecare
Colleen has over 20 years’ experience working with children and a background in nursing and pastoral care. She is married with three adult children and three grandsons who are a source of great love, fun and lots of games!