Gratitude is always a good practice, even if you’re just grateful that 2018 is behind us. Sarah Salamon, M.D., is a pediatrician at Huntington Health Physicians and a mom actively cultivating gratitude within her own family. “I want to raise a nice, thankful, not-entitled child,” she says. “I think in this day and age, we’re so focused on stuff more than moments.” Here are her thoughts about bringing more gratitude into your life in 2019.
What are some of the benefits that a focus on gratitude can have for children?
Kids who learn to be thankful and appreciative of the things that they have tend to be happier people. When kids are focused on what they don’t have or what they didn’t get or what didn’t go right, it fosters a sense of sadness and can really make them anxious.
What are the benefits that taking time to cultivate a gratitude practice can have for parents?
I think we live such busy, fast-paced, sometimes overwhelming lives that we really don’t take a moment to appreciate the small things in life. In trying to cultivate that within your children, it forces you to really look at what you have and be thankful for it.
Are there some simple ways that parents can model expressing gratitude for their children?
Set an example by saying a genuine thank-you to somebody who has helped you. Be thankful also for your kids and let them know what they’ve done that’s good or let them know what things you love about them.
Are there some simple rituals that families can create to share gratitude together?
Something as simple as sitting down to a family meal and talking about what you are thankful for that day. If everyone can share one thing within the family and make that a nighttime ritual, whether that’s at dinner or maybe before bed if that’s when you have the most time, that’s probably the easiest place to start. It’s also important for parents to make sure that kids are thankful when they’ve been given something. So, make sure that they learn to write thank-you notes when they are given gifts, or to go out of their way to find creative ways to say thank you for things that have been done for them or given to them.
It’s also important to give back to others. Taking kids to volunteer at a soup kitchen or going through their toys and finding things to donate is another way that they can learn to appreciate the things that they have.
Gratitude journals might sound like a lot of work to a kid. Are there simpler practices they might like?
Something like a gratitude board or a gratitude jar, where any time someone in the family has done something nice for one another or there’s something that they’re thankful for, they jot down a little note, probably would be more appealing to kids and families who are very busy. At periodic intervals, you could open the jar and read the notes together. That would remind each other how much family helps one another.