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A Better Partnership

Legacy Matters

November 19, 2021

Developing Gratitude in Children Can Be a Challenge - Literally

As we approach Thanksgiving each year, it is customary to count our blessings. Because gratitude has been linked to better health and happiness, we also want to encourage our children to think of all they have to be thankful for in their lives. The development of a genuine sense of gratitude has been shown to decrease feelings of entitlement in children and it offers physical and psychological benefits including improved health, increased optimism and an enhanced ability to deal with adversity. With this in mind, we certainly want our children to cultivate gratitude in their own lives.
 
It can be challenging, though, to get children to slow down, turn off their devices, talk with people and do the deep thinking that helps build a sense of gratitude. And, quite frankly, many teens and young adults are coming out of the pandemic with anxiety and depression issues that are making it hard for them to see or appreciate the gifts they have been given, the people who care for them and the good things that are happening in their lives right now.
 
Fostering a sense of gratitude in the next generation has never been more important, or more difficult, than it is now. If this topic has been on your mind lately, Thanksgiving is a great time to start a more deliberate effort to help your children grow their sense of gratitude. Because it is an opportunity for everyone to pause “life” for a day or two and spend some quality time together, it lends itself well to moments of mindfulness and introspection. This is especially true if you already have Thanksgiving traditions focused on thoughtfulness, such as sharing what you are thankful for around the dinner table, creating a list of people you would like to thank or volunteering as a family in the community.
 
For teens and young adults, you could begin your work in this area by offering them (or the whole family) a gratitude challenge. To create the challenge, brainstorm ideas that will connect with your children. You can build on the interests in your family, or you can use blogs, podcasts and videos, such as TED Talks, focused on gratitude. You could start small with a seven-day challenge or a weekly challenge (think Thankful Thursdays) or you could go big with one of the 30-day gratitude challenges that are popular right now. Some ideas for 30-day gratitude challenges include:
 

  • Take a photo (or video) every day of something you are thankful for. See photographer Hailey Bartholomew’s emotional TEDxQUT talk where she shares how she was battling depression and grew in gratitude over a year of doing this. For creative children, encourage them to create something with the photos, as Hailey did in compiling a book.

  • Write down something you are grateful for each day for 30 days either in a gratitude journal or using a gratitude app for your phone. At the end of the 30 days, share these with the family. If you start this at Thanksgiving, you will be ready for everyone to share a few of these before the new year.

  • Choose one of the 30-day challenges that offers a simple task to do each day. You can find several of these challenges on the internet. See The Confused Millennial’s 30 Day Gratitude Challenge as an example.

  • Choose a new gratitude habit you want to build, and do that action every day for 30 days. Create reminders, such as calendar reminders on your phone or strategically-placed sticky notes, to help you remember each day. Consistently repeating a behavior for 30 days has been shown in many cases to be enough to build a lasting habit.

 
Some of our previous blog posts include suggestions that can help you start building gratitude skills in younger children, including:
 

 
The holidays and upcoming new year offer wonderful opportunities for family togetherness, storytelling, teachable moments and modeling gratitude for your children. It is the perfect time to consider how you can help your children continue to grow their sense of gratitude. As children learn to look outside of themselves and truly acknowledge the help and gifts they receive from others, they will be more likely to develop genuine gratitude that will serve them well their entire lives.
 
If you are looking for other ways to prepare the next generation to steward the family’s legacy, don’t hesitate to contact your Warner attorney or Beth O’Laughlin at bolaughlin@wnj.com or 616.396.3118.

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