"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more." - Melody Beattie
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I think it’s safe to say that most parents have been there - stuck in the middle of a toy aisle with a whining or crying, or heaven forbid, lying-on-the-floor child who’s upset about not being able to get a toy they just saw for the first time five minutes ago.
It can be tough for kids to control their emotions but helping them cultivate a gratitude practice can teach them to start focusing more on what they DO have, rather than what they DON’T have. And in turn, those fledgling feelings of abundance can start to help them become more generous.
We recently started a daily gratefulness practice with our kids through the use of Gratitude Journals. Each night they write a few things about their day that they are grateful for and think about some of the highs and lows from the day. Not only are they starting to acknowledge all the good things in their lives, but they are also reflecting on their emotions throughout the day and building self-awareness.
We bought two different gratitude journals so we could compare them. My youngest is using the 3-Minute Gratitude Journal for Kids. It prompts her to write down 3 things she's grateful for and a person who brought her joy that day. There's a series of smiley/happy/sad faces for her to circle to represent how she's feeling or how the day went, and a box where she can write about or draw what she thought was the best part of the day. She tends to circle both a happy and sad face most days and sometimes even splits her box to draw both the best and worst part of her day (which usually corresponds to why she circled the faces she circled). I love that she has the freedom to make what she wants out of the page and that she's thinking about how her day went. And while most of her gratitude centers around our family, her friends, and our cat right now, I really believe this is setting a foundation that will serve her well as she grows up and gains the emotional maturity to use that reflection to plan and dream about how to make the following day even better.
My older daughter is using the Thankful Thoughts Gratitude Journal for Kids. This one has more writing space and fewer prompts. There are 3 standard questions each day: What are you grateful for? What were today's highs? What were today's lows? And then a fourth question that changes each day - things like What's Your Superpower? And What do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?. Again, I love that the journal not only gets her thinking about what she's thankful for, but also about what went well that day and what didn't. She's old enough to start recognizing how her actions (or lack of action) can affect how she feels about how her day went, and I believe that's a powerful tool to have. The rotating last question keeps it all fun and fresh.
Working on their gratitude journals is something they both look forward to and it's a moment I cherish sharing with them as their mom. It’s our hope that as they continue to build their gratitude skills, they’ll become even more aware of the blessings in their lives and more willing to share what they have with others. While they continue to work on the act of giving through using their binders, they'll strengthen their desire to give through their gratitude practice. And hopefully one day, grow into the kind and generous women I can envision them to be.