Save the Children, with some help from Peppa Pig, is helping tamariki and whānau learn about mindfulness in children throughout October. An important part of mindfulness is practising gratitude. We’re grateful that mum-of-one, Elisabeth, has shared her tips for encouraging kids to show gratitude.
It wasn’t that long ago that I felt slightly squeamish at the thought of “practising gratitude,” says Save the Children’s Elisabeth Fraser. But now, I see the benefits of establishing these habits early for my preschooler and me.
While I’ve always been an optimistic and positive person, my science-wired brain felt the idea of “practising gratitude” swayed too much towards alternative therapies, and I resisted. However, it wasn’t until I stumbled across a Ted-Talk about the hard-science of gratitude, that I began to rethink how this practise can be woven into daily life, both to support my well-being as a mum, and to establish these habits early in life for my young daughter.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is an appreciation for what we have in our lives, both tangible and intangible, big and small. When we practise gratitude, we consciously acknowledge and recognise these things. A growing amount of research is showing that gratitude is associated with improved wellbeing, increased resilience and improved social relationships. When controlling for lifestyle factors, people vary in how grateful they are on a daily basis, and those that are more grateful are happier. Research shows that taking only a few minutes a day to simply think about, or write down, three to five small things we’re grateful for can have profound effects.
Encouraging kids to voice their gratitude
Children today are facing unprecedented challenges in daily life. Along with the day-to-day trials and tribulations of childhood, children are now also facing increasing levels of anxiety around issues such as climate change, housing insecurity and the COVID-19 pandemic. If practising gratitude can build resilience and improve wellbeing, then that’s a strategy I want my daughter to have in her tool-belt.
About six months ago I set about trying to make this a habit in my two-person household. Sometimes around the dinner table, sometimes while tucking her into bed at night, I ask my 4-year-old daughter, “What are you grateful for today?” Initially, her answers were focused around the things that we had done, “Going to the playground!” Of course, a perfectly legitimate answer. However, I love how over time her answers have become more thoughtful and diverse. “Fish and chips, grandma, flowers, our warm house, worms (because they provide food so we have birds to listen to), our cat Gingerbread, my friends.” Now, most evenings, it’s not me who drives the conversation, but my daughter. “Mama, what are you grateful for today?” Or when we have guests around the dinner table, “Bibi, what are you grateful for today?”
Getting creative during lockdown
As with most in Tāmaki Makaurau, I have had to get creative at home to keep my daughter happy and learning. Lucky for me, in my work as education coordinator for Save the Children NZ, we have been working with Peppa Pig and Twinkl to promote ‘Peppa Practices Mindfulness’ – a month of activities to encourage mindfulness in kids. Twinkl have created a host of beautiful resources which can be found here. One of my favourites has been the 30 days of gratitude photography project. Every day, my daughter knows she can ask for Mama’s phone to take a photo of something that she is grateful for. Highlights have included ants, our lettuce seedlings finally starting to grow, ice cream, clouds … I have created an album on Google Photos for her where the photos are kept together and we will look at them at the end of the month to reflect. This has been such a great project, easy and engaging with rich learning. It suits all ages, and all learning environments – home or school.
What I love about consciously practising gratitude is that it has shifted my mind to a more positive state, instead of going to sleep thinking about the negative, I fall asleep thinking about the good. It is so easy and takes very little effort or brain power at the end of a long day, it improves the well-being of our whole family, and it is something we can do together. Mindful practises such as gratitude are a state of mind, and a way of thinking. Habits that start young are more likely to last a lifetime and it’s never too early (or too late) to start.
Originally published on Kidspot NZ