The Secret Powers of Gratitude 

Fun fact: Giving back to others helps heal your brain! Stress and trauma affect your brain but helping others can reverse the effects. Helping people helps us! 

Have you ever tried to explain a complex concept like gratitude to a 4-year-old? Ask them, “What are you grateful for?” and you’re likely to get a blank stare, or “Umm…” 

But ask them what makes them feel happy and warm inside and you’ll be rewarded with more examples than you can count. “My family!” “My dog!” “Visiting Grandma!” 

Teaching kids about gratitude early is incredibly important to their mental health. 

Focusing on the positive is the best natural mood enhancer we have. Who doesn’t want to be happy more often? Research shows that people who think about the good things in their life are not only happier, but healthier too. They feel more energized, sleep better, have stronger social connections, and feel better about themselves — including having fewer physical problems, medical symptoms and a stronger immune system. 

Helping kids with positive thinking helps them build a lifelong coping skill. It can be very empowering for children to have control over their emotions and mental wellness. 

Feeling Gratitude vs Showing Gratitude 

So, your 4-year-old finally gets it — she’s happy and grateful for puppies, cheese and sometimes her brother. It’s important to focus on that positivity every day and help her become aware of things that make her happy, as well as things that don’t make her happy. She’s definitely NOT grateful for green beans. And that’s OK — we can shift the intention to being grateful that dad loves her and made her a healthy dinner. 

Sometimes, it’s hard to find the things we’re grateful for. Parents can help kids identify moments of happiness throughout the day. Like anything, practice makes perfect. It’s important that you model your own gratitude. Share things you’re grateful for and demonstrate your gratitude. Kids will emulate what they see from you. 

Children are naturally grateful. We just need them to learn how to hold onto that positive feeling and spread it around the world! 

Help Kids Show Gratitude 

Showing gratitude is like spreading sunshine. Making other people happy helps their mental health, and it also helps our own! Here are four ideas for doing just that. 

  1. Give compliments to friends 
  2. Send thankyou notes 
  3. Give back to the community by volunteering 
  4. Give back to the community by fundraising to help others for local charities, such as Dayton Children’s, or another cause your child is excited about. 

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