In our home, we talk a lot about gratitude at night. We take a few seconds to notice moments for which we feel particularly grateful. We’re all winding down and usually getting cozy in our pajamas, maybe with a surprise cup of cocoa. A friend begins her day by talking about gratitude with her son. Gratitude can happen any time, anywhere, because there’s almost always something, no matter how small, to be grateful for. (Even at 8am, over Cheerios).
I wanted to start gratitude journaling with my son, Jasper, 8. There are two powerful reasons to introduce your kid(s) to expressing gratitude through writing, and there are thousands of ways you can do it.
- Gratitude might make us healthier. People who keep weekly gratitude journals have also been found to exercise more, and feel better about their lives. It also makes other people like us more. I mean, who doesn’t want that?
- Expressing gratitude helps us be more positive overall. The deeper, richer feeling that comes with expressions of gratitude can stick with us for longer. In other words, feeling and then expressing our gratitude can paint our whole day with a yellow brush of positivity… which is definitely something I want for my kid (and myself).
As much as my son and I are both fond of paper supply stores and notebooks (we have dozens around our home), I knew that letting him pick out a brand new journal and a bunch of glittery pens would just mean that we’d have another empty notebook sitting around on the kitchen counter, because he does not like to write.
As a homeschooling mom, I spend a lot of time on Teachers Pay Teachers, an education resource site, and turned to the site for my gratitude journaling needs. I found a really basic, easy template (available for $4). The sheets can be folded into a book, and each page only has room for a sentence (or in my kid’s case, 1-3 words). While I would love it if my kid wanted to fill pages and pages with his gratitudes… for now, being able to fill in “candy” for a daily gratitude is good enough for me.
Since I already knew that he liked to talk about gratitude, I approached the project from that vantage point. We were talking about feeling grateful for a particular experience, when I noted that it might be cool to write it down. He balked, but I asked him to check out the pages I had printed and see if he could get behind committing to 20 pages a month. His journaling isn’t an everyday thing, and it’s also not a Monday-Friday thing. He knows where the book is, and when prompted, is generally okay with retrieving it and writing down a gratitude for the day.
“Gratitude journaling is great because it helps me think about stuff I am grateful for,” says Jasper. “I did not think I would like it, but it is better than I thought it would be.”
What’s nice is that he can write about anything. Gratitude is really lovely because we often find ourselves grateful for everything from the tiniest experience (like the floors already being vacuumed when you get home) to the biggest (like an incredible career accomplishment). My son has written about being grateful for candy, his pets, and his friends.
We’re only about a month into it, so it’s a little early to see if there are major benefits. I’ve got a good feeling about how committing a handful of words to a page every other day will positively impact his ability to recognize and express gratitude —both with us at home, and with his other teachers, friends, and peers. If parenting is at least partly about giving our kids every tool we can, I think adding the ability to express gratitude is a must.
Stephanie Kaloi is a writer, editor, and photographer living in Oakland, CA, with her family and menagerie of adopted pets. She spends an inordinate amount of time reading and wandering, and is always down for a cross-country road trip.