Gratitude Journals for Kids
While most everyone would say that the simple act of saying, “Thank you,” is both powerful and important, gratitude extends far beyond that–it is both an attitude and an action. As parents, teaching a young child to express thankfulness not only during Thanksgiving but throughout the year is pertinent to fostering happiness, gratefulness, and contentment from simple joys. Not only does thankfulness improve our relationships, but it also improves empathy, emotional intelligence, sleep, physical health, self-esteem, psychological health, and it builds resilience from trauma. As parents, raising our kids to be appreciative and grateful is easier when we can use a practical tool. Gratitude Journals are a tangible way to introduce your little ones to thankfulness, in a way that is both fun and creative! It provides an avenue for them to express joy, document what they’re feeling, save any inspirational quotes, and is a fun, healthy habit to maintain. However, mindfulness and gratitude seem to have become a low priority in this hectic modern world filled with stress.
So how do we help foster this attitude of gratitude within our kids? A gratitude journal for kids is simple: children writing down thankful thoughts, ideas, or blessings that they have witnessed in their daily life. The journal can be introduced as a fun activity around gratitude practice and expressing gratitude for young children. Studies have shown that this type of gratitude activity helps instill kindness and can have major benefits on the physical and psychological health of a child. Not only does it foster a healthy habit, journaling also normalizes expressing gratitude and maintaining a positive attitude.
In fact, studies have shown that writing in a gratitude journal three times a week has a tremendous impact on individual happiness. Imagine what daily journaling could do! But, what exactly are gratitude journals, and how can we help our kids utilize them?
Gratitude for Kids: What is a Gratitude Journal?
A gratitude journal is exactly as it sounds-a journal in which you can write down what you are grateful for. There are many ways to express gratitude for kids, nothing is too big or too small. This can be as simple as sharing a meal with family, or as elaborate as listing the people you know and the contributions they have made in your life. The importance here is the habit of writing down positive things and building mindfulness in younger kids.
How to Put it into Practice
As with anything else we do with kids, the more enthusiastic the adults are, the more excited the kids will be. Start by making this activity fun and collaborative. You can take your kids to the store to pick out their own journals or you can buy plain ones to decorate and personalize them at home. Then, talk to your kids about the journals and what they can write in them. Sometimes starting with gratitude journal prompts or even posing it as a gratitude challenge will build more excitement. This is a great opportunity to talk about thankfulness and the importance of gratitude in day-to-day life. Just remember, gratitude journaling for kids should be fun! Inspire your children to open up and really think about what they are thankful for.
There truly is no wrong way to fill a gratitude journal, but here are some tips to teach your children the value of appreciation:
- When first starting out, it’s best to convey what gratitude is the best way you can to your kids by showing them examples of what you are grateful for and what others are grateful for. Encourage them to be specific. While it is easier to write, “I am thankful for food,” it takes more intentionality and thought to write, “I am grateful for our delicious dinner and my sister who makes me laugh.” Similarly, instead of writing, “I am thankful for my friends,” encourage your children to write the names of their friends and even specific character traits or things they have done that they are grateful for.
- Try to get your kids to be personal with their answers. Tell your child to focus on the people in their lives or experiences that they are thankful for instead of physical objects. This can help improve your child’s emotional intelligence and relationships over time and will really show true value for young children.
- If they get stuck and can’t think of anything to write, ask them to consider what their lives would be like without certain people or things. This can spark some deep thankfulness!
- Remember that gratitude can be expressed artistically, as well. Your kids can scribble, draw, paint or color in their journals to represent what they are thankful for. This practice is also great for younger kids who cannot yet write or kids who don’t like to write. They can also include photographs of things they love, favorite places, or people that they appreciate.
- Keeping a gratitude journal is only part of the process, helping your kids develop a habit of writing and journaling regularly is just as important. (Starting a gratitude journal for kids can be a great way to do so.) Journaling is just one of many healthy habits for kids that help them develop compassion. Whether this means setting aside certain days or times of the week, having it as a requirement before allotted screen time or filling the journals out together as a family and discussing it over dinner, encouraging consistency will do wonders for your kids and your family as a whole.
- Also, consider making practicing gratitude a family project. Create a “Family Gratitude Book” together.
This is an interactive activity that will get all members involved and participating in the same activity. Encourage everyone to add photos, notes, drawings and mementos of anything they want to include. Try sitting down with the family at least once a month to continue to fill out your family gratitude book. You can even make a family gratitude challenge to try and make daily prompts for everyone to write about or make a quick daily gratitude list just to make sure you all are getting some kind of daily practice.
Overall, incorporating gratitude journaling into your family’s lifestyle can help play a role in teaching thankfulness & mindfulness to your children even if it’s not a daily habit. We all want our children to grow up to be well-rounded, empathic, compassionate and caring adults, and cultivating an attitude of gratitude is one way to do just that!
Reviewed by Jose A. Ramos Jr., Director of Prevention
Jose A. Ramos Jr., MSW, is the Director of Primary Prevention at Children’s Bureau. He has worked with Children’s Bureau since 1994 and has over 30-years of experience working in the Child Welfare field. He has a master’s degree in social work from the University of Long Beach and is earning his MBA. Jose is also Secretary of the National Association of Social Workers.