Gratitude: an antidote for our entitled children

Many experts identify three pillars of resilience: mindfulness, empathy and gratitude. This term we are focusing on developing gratitude in all our programs.

Put simply practicing gratitude is a focus on the good in your life and acknowledging it. Our brains are wired to look for the negatives (it’s a leftover from when we were cave people and our survival meant we needed to make sure we were not eaten!!). The act of practicing gratitude is simply balancing our ledger and helping us refocus to see the whole picture.

Why does practicing gratitude matter?

Research has found that gratitude makes us happier, makes people like us, improves our health, strengthens our emotions and makes us more optimistic. A lack of gratitude can compound mental health issues especially in our children. The worrying trend of children as young as nine years old becoming more materialistic and having high expectations such as needing the latest IPhone, Fit Bit or Garmin, X Box or needing the latest trending sneakers is not making our children happier. In fact, it is making them more anxious and depressed.

Happier Human Blog found that “Materialism is strongly correlated with reduced well-being and increased rates of mental disorder. There’s nothing wrong with wanting more. The problem with materialism is that it makes people feel less competent, reduces feelings of relatedness and gratitude,reduces their ability to appreciate and enjoy the good in life, generates negative emotions, and makes them more self-centered.”

8 tips for cultivating gratitude in children.

Today on World Mental Health day it is sobering to realise that one in seven of our children suffering from a mental health disorder in Australia with half of these children suffering anxiety. Helping our children practice gratitude is something you can start easily and straight away. Whether you are a parent or teacher these tips won’t add a lot of more work or time to your life and can be easily incorporated into your family or class routine.

Role model gratitude - the more your children see people around them practicing gratitude the more it will be a natural thing for them to do. It can be as simple as "Aren't I lucky to be teaching you curious children!"

Three things – Practice gratitude by asking your children to name three things they are grateful for before bed or at dinner table. In a classroom setting this could be as simple as asking a few children a day.

Write a thank you card letting someone know why you are grateful.

Make a gratitude jar - People write gratitude notes or warm fuzzy’s and pop them in the jar. It can be as simple as “ Dear Dad, thank you for making me dinner, Love Fiona”

Clean up your street – go for a walk with gloves, tongs and a plastic bag and pick up litter. You can talk about how lucky we are to live in a country that is so clean and how we can be leaders in making sure it stays this way.

Do something kind for a neighbour. There are lots of ways, it could even be smiling and saying hello when you see them.

Make a Gratitude Advent Calendar - In the lead up to Christmas many families and a few schools do a Gratitude Advent Calendar. You may like to put our first five ideas on yours or make up your own. Here are two we have thought of:

Make a Christmas card for someone and hand deliver it

Donate food or goods to a charity.

How do you practice gratitude in your family or in your classroom?

Could your children use a DOSE of gratitude? Our afterschool Very Arty Day starting week 2 or Present Making workshops the week before Christmas are a fun and creative way to develop those skills. We use art and play to teach resilience skills. Click here for more information.