We teach children to say ‘thank you’ but do we ever really teach them about gratitude? It is wonderful for children to use their manners. However, teaching them why they are grateful gives positive meaning to those 2 words that we say so freely. Gratitude is a powerful tool that has been proven to reduce anxiety, increase happiness, improve health and build self-esteem, yet this simple practice is something that can, at times, get overlooked. By saying ‘thank you’ and then acknowledging why we are grateful, we get a deeper level of appreciation because we are highlighting the benefit or value of what we are grateful for. This then creates a more optimistic outlook on life.
Starting each day positively
What we focus on grows, which is why it is so important to teach children how to cultivate a positive mindset. Sometimes we all have what is known as ‘one of those days’ where everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. This is because our thoughts create feelings, which then create results. If we are feeling negative, this generates negative thoughts that then lead to us either making bad choices or attracting negativity. Gratitude is an amazing way to create positive feelings and break any negative cycle that we may be in. It also ensures that we start the day in a positive way, which means we are more likely to avoid having ‘one of those days’!
Knowing the positive benefits of gratitude, I start most days filling in my gratitude journal. I spend just 5 minutes writing down what, or who I am grateful for and why. One day my little girl asked me what I was doing. She is only 4 years old so I thought she might be a little young to understand, but I simplified it and started to explain that I was saying all of the things that make me feel grateful and why. I started by saying ‘Thank you for my pen, because it means I can draw really pretty pictures and make my storybooks’. I then said ‘Thank you for my cup, because it means that I don’t have to drink off the floor’. Well, she loved this one and found it hilarious! I said a few more and then all of a sudden my daughter shouted out ‘Thank you for my school, because I can play’ and ‘Thank you for my friends, because they are kind to me’. She absolutely loved thinking of different things to be grateful for and what really struck me was how much her little face beamed as she said each one.
Introducing a circle of gratitude
It was in that moment that I thought how amazing it would be if every childcare setting started each day with a little gratitude circle, so I launched the #ThankYouOaky Gratitude Movement. Not only does this start each day with a positive outlook, it also teaches children to appreciate what they have got, rather than what they lack. It can be very easy to focus on what we don’t have in life and to get caught up in thinking about the past, or the future, which can at times lead to negative feelings. By practising gratitude we bring ourselves back to the present moment and focus on the things that add value to our lives, rather than the things that hold us back. If you think about it, when you are in a state of appreciation, it is very difficult to experience negative emotions, which is why gratitude is so powerful.
If everyone regularly practised gratitude, we would live in a kinder and happier society. By teaching children this practice at a young age, they will grow up seeing the beauty in life and appreciating the small things. In this fast-paced, digital world, where everything is so readily available, we can sometimes forget to appreciate the simple things. Gratitude is a wonderful way of allowing both adults and children to acknowledge what they do have and to see that even through dark times, we do, in fact, have many things to be grateful for. What we believe and our perception will often shape our path. If we can empower children to cultivate a positive mindset they will not only feel happier, but they will also have a healthier outlook on life.
Download your free #ThankYouOaky Gratitude Movement pack here: https://www.earlyyearsstorybox.com/gratitude/
About the author
Stacey Kelly is a former teacher, a parent to 2 beautiful babies and the founder of Early Years Story Box, which is a subscription website providing children’s storybooks and early years resources. She is passionate about building children’s imagination, creativity and self-belief and about creating awareness of the impact that the Early Years have on a child’s future. Stacey loves her role as a writer, illustrator and public speaker and believes in the power of personal development. She is also on a mission to empower children to live a life full of happiness and fulfillment, which is why she launched the #ThankYouOaky Gratitude Movement.