This year I have made it a personal goal to focus on being thankful for all the goodness that surrounds me every day.
I believe in the saying – Gratitude is an Attitude – and I also believe that we can build our gratitude ‘muscles’ by using them daily. Building an attitude of gratitude is such a gift to share with children and is something that we can cultivate even from a very young age.
1. Make a Gratitude Jar
At the start of this year we started our family ‘Gratitude Jar’. We shopped for a large glass jar, and some heart-shaped post-it-notes and a new pen. As a family we talked about things that had happened recently that we were grateful for, we wrote each of these onto a note and placed them into the jar. Each week (wish it could be every night – but it’s a work in progress!) we sit, talk and write something new to place into the jar. At special times throughout the year, and on New Year’s Eve we will open the jar and read them all together. Things that we write aren’t always BIG or important – often they are little things – a compliment from a stranger, an extra big hug, the blue sky – the small things are what make a happy life and the more we focus on the positive, the better life seems – this is the gift I want to share with my son as he grows.
2. Random Acts of Kindness
Each week think of something that can be done for someone else – and then go ahead and do it! Help a neighbour, pick up some rubbish, put something away, pay for someone’s coffee, pick a flower from the garden and give it to mummy! Brainstorm a list of kind things that we could do for each other – younger children might need a little suggestion or reminder in their ear and then lots of hugs and congratulations when they’re finished – but reinforce this habit and it will grow and flourish for years to come!
3. Share Your Gratitude
Tell your child how much you love and appreciate them – yes some days might be a struggle – but tell them how clever they are, how they make you laugh, how warm your heart feels when you think of them – telling them in words, explicitly, teaches them about HOW to love unconditionally and how to express and acknowledge this love every day.
4. Give To Others
There is nothing quite as cathartic as a good old fashioned clean up! Empty out those cupboards and drawers, find some things that don’t suit anymore and then give them to your favourite charity. Help your child to part with some toys with a smile by talking to them about the happy times you’ve spent playing with those toys – then help them imagine another child smiling as they play with the same toys.
5. Reflection Time
Bedtime is a great time to reflect on the events of the day and to express gratitude for the good things that have happened – no matter how small. Talk with your child, ask them about their day, and ask them to tell you one thing that made them smile. Have them close their eyes and see this happening again, feel free to suggest some things for them to imagine too! I love the song by Justine Clarke – Things That Make You Smile – it the perfect song to sing and reinforces the attitude of gratitude!