Practicing gratitude is one of the best habits to teach our students. Kids, (and adults), who master the skill of gratitude tend to feel good and spread goodwill to others.
Research shows that practicing gratitude can increase our happiness, optimism and overall satisfaction with our lives.
It can also…
- Make us more inclined to do nice things for others, and feel more connected.
- Help us sleep better.
- Reduce aggression and depression.
- Boost likability.
- Improve emotional and physical health.
- Reduce materialism.
- Gratitude can even improve kids’ grades!
As you can see, there are plenty of benefits! So, what are the best ways to teach kids the skill of gratitude?
Based on current studies on gratitude in children, these gratitude building practices for kids seem to be the most effective:
- Explicitly teach gratitude by regularly pointing out examples of it, and by modeling it yourself. Try ending each day by stating what you appreciated about your students that day.
- Teach kids to stop and savor happy moments. Help them practice slowing down and taking a few minutes to be mindful about how a happy moment makes them feel. You could try taking a moment after recess for kids to put their heads down and think about something that they enjoyed about their recess time that day.
- Encourage kids to identify their own strengths and ways that they are best suited to help others. Take advantage of times during the day when you can ask a student to help someone else using his or her academic or social strengths.
- Gratitude Journals – Gratitude journals seem to work best when kids set an intention before writing. (For example, this will help me become happier or more grateful.) Writing about specific details and expressing gratitude for people rather than things are most effective. Here are some more tips on effective gratitude journaling from the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.
- Gratitude Visits or Notes of Appreciation – (An another idea tested by the Greater Good Science Center.) Encourage kids to think about someone who they’ve never thanked properly. Kids can visit them in person or write a letter expressing detailed and specific gratitude.
Here are some more tips for fostering gratitude in teens. (Hint: As you know, teens are a whole different animal. What works for younger kids may not be the right approach with teens.)
Do you do home journals with your students and their families? The circle journal is one version of the home journal. Students and parents “circle” the journal back and forth and communicate about the school week or anything else. It’s a great way to do some everyday writing practice and promote family communication about school. It can also be used as a gratitude journal! -Kids can write about something they are grateful for and pass it to parents or other students to do the same. You can circle it back and forth as often as you like. You can also use it as a class activity and circle one journal around the classroom as many times as you can during a week, month or year.
Grab a copy of my FREE Gratitude Circle Journal here, or just use a plain notebook to pass back and forth.
Want to grow grateful kids at home and at school? Try one of these strategies in your classroom, or share them with parents in your next classroom newsletter!
More resources on gratitude for kids:
Raising Happiness, 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents, by Christine Carter (Affiliate link.) This is one of my favorite books for parents!
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