Carroll Dragon's Breath~DECEMBER



Mental Health and Wellness Monthly Topics

  • August: Transition Tips for Success
  • September: Hope/Trust
  • October: Courage/Character/Integrity
  • November: Honor and Relationships (Kindness)
  • December: Joy and Gratitude
  • January: Knowledge/Excellence
  • February: Creativity/Unity
  • March: Forgiveness/Compassionate Service
  • April: Humility/Open and Honest Communication
  • May: Determination/Resilience

Tips for Instilling True Gratitude In Your Kids!

Grateful students are more likely than their less grateful peers to be happy, less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and less likely to have behavior problems at school, according to research presented at the American Psychological Association's 120th Annual Convention.

"Gratitude played an important role in many areas of positive mental health of the teens in our study," said lead author Giacomo Bono, PhD, psychology professor at California State University. "Increases in gratitude over a four-year period were significantly related to improvements in life satisfaction, happiness, positive attitudes and hope." When comparing the results of the least grateful 20 percent of the students with the most grateful 20 percent, they found that teens with the most gratitude by the end of the four-year period had:

  • gained 15 percent more of a sense of meaning in their life;
  • become 15 percent more satisfied with their life overall (at home, at school, with their neighborhood, with their friends and with themselves);
  • become 17 percent more happy and more hopeful about their lives;
  • experienced a 13 percent drop in negative emotions and a 15 percent drop in depressive symptoms.

Even if children didn't start off with lots of gratitude, they could still benefit if they developed more gratitude over the four-year period, according to Bono.

"These findings suggest that gratitude may be strongly linked with life-skills such as cooperation, purpose, creativity and persistence and, as such, gratitude is vital resource that parents, teachers and others who work with young people should help youth build up as they grow up. More gratitude may be precisely what our society needs to raise a generation that is ready to make a difference in the world".

1. Name your blessings.
Have a moment of thanks each day when everyone shares something they're thankful for. Older kids might even prefer to keep a gratitude journal and write down a few things they were thankful for each day before going to bed.

2. Be a grateful parent.
What an invaluable exercise it is to tell our kids why we're grateful to have them! It goes without saying that we love our kids, and that we're thankful beyond words for their love, their smiles, their hugs and so much more. When we tell them what makes them special to us, their self-esteem is boosted for the right reasons.

3. Resist the urge to shower them with too much "stuff."
The old adage "all things in moderation" is a useful guideline here. Of course we to want to give our kids the best, and this isn't to suggest that we refuse to buy them anything but the bare essentials. But buying kids whatever they want, whenever they want, dilutes the gratitude impulse and it can mean that they don't learn to value or respect their possessions.

4. Have 'em pitch in when they want something.
If your kids get an allowance or earn money at a job, have them participate in buying some of the things they want. When kids themselves take the time to save up, they have an ownership stake in the purchase and gain an understanding of the value of a dollar by working toward what they want. It also teaches restraint and encourages kids to appreciate what they have, as well as giving them a more realistic perspective on what you and others do for them.

5. Keep thank-you notes on hand.
Sadly, sending handwritten thank-you notes seems to be a dying art. But it's actually a perfect way to encourage kids to express gratitude -- and as an added bonus, it can make the recipient's day. There are loads of opportunities throughout the year for kids to recognize and thank those who have done something special for them, and it's a habit that if they start young, they'll naturally carry throughout life.

6. Set a good example by saying "thank you" sincerely and often.
The values our kids embrace as they get older aren't those we nag them into learning, but the ones they see us living out. There are countless opportunities every day for us to model gratitude for our kids -- for example, thanking the waitress who serves your food, the cashier who rings you up at the grocery store, the teller at the bank who cashes your check. When our kids see us expressing sincere thanks all the time, they'll be more inclined to do so as well.

7. Link gratitude to your Higher Power.
Most religious traditions emphasize the practice of gratitude through acknowledging blessings and through serving others. Attending regular religious services is one way for kids to gain a sense of gratitude as part of a community. Even those who aren't part of a formal worship community can offer prayers personally at appropriate times. Spirituality and gratitude go hand in hand.

8. Encourage them to give back.
The old saying "it's better to give than to receive" has stuck around for a reason. It really does feel great to help someone else out. Depending on their ages, kids can rake leaves for an elderly neighbor, say, or volunteer at a nursing home a few hours a week. You might even make service a family activity. When kids give their time and energy to help others, they're less likely to take things like health, home and family for granted.

9. Insist on politeness and respect all around.
When we teach our children to treat others with dignity and respect, they'll be more likely to appreciate the ways in which those folks contribute to and improve their lives. By the same token, they'll be less likely to take assistance and kindness for granted, and more likely to give it the value it deserves. It's crucial for us as parents to model for our children the importance of treating all people with respect.

10. Look for teachable moments.
Sure, we all take the opportunity to have periodic conversations about values with our children -- but the key is to keep our eyes open for situations that eloquently illustrate our point. We need to seize those moments and be prepared to use them as the powerful teaching aids that they are. When kids can connect the concept of gratitude to a real-life situation, the lesson we're teaching will be much more likely to stick.

11. Find the silver lining.
It's human nature to see the glass half-empty from time to time -- and children are no exception. When kids complain or gripe, it can be helpful to try to find a response that looks on the bright(er) side. It's called an "attitude of gratitude" for a reason -- it's about perspective more than circumstance. But as parents we need to remember that it's more productive to teach our kids to be resilient and refocus them on the positives they may be overlooking.

Big picture

A Life Filled with Joy

Learning to choose joy is something that will benefit your children all of their lives. Joy is the root of contentment and peace. And it helps kids develop compassion, empathy, and kindness. All things we could use more of in the world!

-Creating joyful habits in the home is a wonderful way to teach kids joy. Make it a point to count your blessings as a family. Spending time together as a family is a great way to teach kids joy. Create small rituals your kids can depend on daily or weekly that involve quality family time. Game nights, movie nights, after dinner walks, and family dinners can all be a part of creating a joyful family life. A joyful family has fun together, laughs together, and just plain enjoys being in each other’s company.

-Teach your child to avoid negativity. There are many hard things in life. But the reverse is also true. The good in the world and the beauty of everyday life are worth looking for. And are all around us. Pay attention to the people your child spends time with. It can be challenging, but important to teach them to avoid negative people. And patterns of negative thoughts. If your child seems to be developing a habit of negative thinking or spiraling worries, work with them to develop new habits and overcome negative thoughts. Negativity is an obstacle to joyful living.

Resources on Mindfulness

The Resiliency Project


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Braver than yesterday. Smarter today.

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