Thanksgiving, one of our country’s favorite holidays, is revered for many reasons. We love to recall the kindness and good will that was shared between the Pilgrims and Native Americans so long ago. We devour feasts of pumpkin pie, turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, and sweet potatoes. We laugh as we tell stories among family and friends. And, of course, we watch hours of football.
While we think of Thanksgiving as a time to dwell on our blessings, we may not realize that this holiday can actually boost academic performance for our children. This is because of gratitude, which has many benefits for adults and kids alike.
Numerous studies have pointed out the positive impact of gratitude on heart health, stress level, immune system, and longevity. Research has also shown that “pro-social behaviors” such as gratitude lead to improved performance in the classroom. In addition, kids who engage in these pro-social behaviors experience better job prospects, stronger mental health, and fewer negative interactions with law enforcement. As parents, isn’t it a good idea to foster gratitude in our children to make these outcomes more likely?
There’s a good chance that your child could improve in the gratitude department. Fortunately, we can get better at being grateful with practice. Shouldn’t we focus on our blessings throughout the year instead of during a few days at the end of November? We’ll reap many rewards as adults, and our kids will see success at school and beyond.
Here are five tips for cultivating gratitude at home:
- Model gratitude. Parents who complain all the time will have kids who complain all the time. Make an effort to focus on the good. Want to take it to the next level? Set up a “parent’s complaint jar” and drop a quarter in it every time you or your partner complains about something. Your kids will love this!
- Make a gratitude wall with Post-it notes. Write down (or draw) something you’re grateful for at least twice a day. Do this in a room where you spend lots of time (like the kitchen). We tend to think about things that go wrong and bother us, but the gratitude wall will visually remind us of our blessings – plus, it’s creative and fun! When you’ve done this for a week, celebrate by going to your favorite restaurant or doing something else you enjoy.
- Earn the fun with gratitude.Does your kid want a cookie? Does your teen want the car keys? Make kids “earn the fun” with gratitude. They can get what they want after adding a Post-It note to the gratitude wall or telling you something they’re grateful for.
- Connect with current events.We take so much for granted. Consider water, for example. When we’re thirsty, we go to the sink without thinking about it. What about those children in Flint? They can’t do that. We can point out to our kids how lucky they are by making connections with stories from the news.
- Serve others as a family.Community service is a great way to become more grateful. By working in a food pantry, collecting used sports equipment for disadvantaged children, or singing holiday favorites at a nursery home, kids start to appreciate just how lucky they are. Plus, it’s a fun way to bond as a family.
Author: Known as “The Happy Teacher,” Mike Ferry is a 14-year veteran middle school history teacher, father of four, and author of Teaching Happiness And Innovation. His passion is to help kids form habits for happiness, creativity, and success in life. Mike’s work has been featured in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Newsmax, CBS 6 Richmond, and radio shows and podcasts around the world.