Getting Started: What is Gratitude?
Gratitude can be a difficult concept to explain to a child. Telling them that their gratitude journal is a place to keep track of what’s good in their life is simple, but simple is best! They’ll get the idea as you start to prompt them or as you work the words gratitude, grateful, and thankful into everyday conversations. For example, if you are enjoying a bowl of ice cream together or a crisp fall outing, try saying, I am grateful for this delicious ice cream. Or, I am thankful for this fun, fall day.
Let Your Child Take the Lead
If your child is not writing yet, they can draw something they feel grateful for. It’s best not to ask a sweeping, abstract question like, What are you grateful for?
Try asking things like:
- What’s your favorite toy? Who gave it to you?
- What part of your day did you like best?
- Where do you like to go? Why do you like to go to Grandma’s?
A child who is non-verbal can draw while a parent writes a memory of the day or use their PECS or other PCS to explain their day. Even simple stickers can convey a child’s thoughts.
It isn’t so important to list a certain number of things daily or to always capture a particularly rich moment.
The most important thing is to do something in the journal. Daily is a worthy goal, but many experts suggest 2-3 times weekly.
There will be bad days. A parent can use those days to prompt their child. Ask them about something that was nice, such as a meal eaten or a favorite shirt worn. Or ask about something totally off the wall: What Disney princess are you most grateful for? What is better, snow or rain? Why?
Everyday, even on the miserable days, write what you’re grateful for.-Author and vlogger John Green
If your child is open to it, try using the negative part of the day to find a positive. For example, I know you hate broccoli and we had an argument at the table. Can you think of something good about a vegetable you do like, such as corn?
There are two journals in your kit. A parent can write in one and a child in the other. Or you can purchase a small journal for yourself. Modeling the behavior is important for your child to see – and you can benefit from the practice, too!
Don’t give up. You will miss a day or two. Begin again. The nights you both are too tired to draw or write, make a note in your phone and copy it in the journal the next day. You can even make a voice memo! If you forget to pack the journal on an overnight trip, those memos can replace the journal until your child can jot their thoughts down.
Resources for Further Inspiration
- An Experiment in Gratitude| The Science of Happiness Note: Contains one bleeped out expletive.
- Kid President’s 25 Reasons To Be Thankful!
- John Green’s We Could All Use a Little Change Note: This endorses gratitude journals, in general, but mentions a specific company’s offering, as well.
- UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center
- Positive Psychology’s Gratitude Journal
- National Institute of Health’s Practicing Gratitude
Podcasts and Playlists
- Georgian Benta’s Gratitude Podcast Georgian Benta’s vision is to inspire 100,000 people to focus on gratitude and on what makes them grateful in their life. In his podcast he interviews successful people who share how gratitude has shaped their lives.
- TED Talks Give Thanks Playlist Seven TED Talks that will help you conjure up massive amounts of gratitude.
- Positive Psychology’s Playlist
- Note: Preview all episodes before listening with your children. Not every podcast or video contains “all ages” content.