Spring represents a season of rebirth and growth. Flowers are blooming, front lawns are turning green, and trees that sat bare all winter are now full of leaves. Being from Michigan, I certainly appreciate the beautiful springs we have after what can be very harsh winters.
This spring is different for everyone. Forced to stay inside most of the time, or at least close to home, it’s easy to miss the beauty of this season amid the fear and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. But even though this is a difficult time for you and your family, you can still experience beauty and growth, even if it’s just inside your own home.
One thing that is essential right now to not only survive this time but to thrive is gratitude. Gratitude is one of the most important characteristics you can cultivate in your child, and now is an excellent opportunity to do so.
Gratitude doesn’t come naturally to our kids. This is why we have to teach our children to say thank you. They aren’t going to do it on their own. You probably know all too well how true this is, especially right now when you might be home all day and can hear your child’s complaints. Online school, not being able to see her friends, fighting with her siblings over who can use the laptop—your child has probably not expressed much gratitude lately.
This lack of gratitude isn’t really your child’s fault; it’s simply how children develop. We are wired to be egocentric, especially when we’re young. To children, it feels like the world revolves around them. Their needs are what they think of, not others’, so they don’t think to be grateful for what they have. This is why parents must intervene and teach their child gratitude.
A study done at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill found that gratitude is best instilled in kids as an experience in four parts:
1. What we NOTICE in our lives for which we can be grateful
2. How we THINK about why we have been given those things
3. How we FEEL about the things we have been given
4. What we DO to express appreciation in return
These first three experiences are things you can talk through with your child by asking, “What are you thankful for today? How do you feel about these things you’re thankful for? Do you see them as gifts?” Asking key questions and teaching your child to notice what is around him will help him learn to give thanks on his own, rather than only when you tell him to say thank you.
This will also teach him to be grateful for what he has at home, for his little brother, for you, for the internet, for time spent outside—the small things that are easily overlooked when life is not how it is today. This season is providing an incredibly unique opportunity to teach your child to be grateful for the little things.