using gratitude during uncertain times
A kid-friendly gratitude practice that can ease anxiety and boost confidence for children and parents alike.
As I write this, COVID-19 continues and many parents and children around the world are feeling anxious around back-to-school plans for September. This post will highlight one practical gratitude practice that kids and parents can both adopt to promote greater confidence and feelings of empowerment, especially during these times of uncertainty and anxiety. Start this practice now, and come September, your child will have a handy tool under their belt to lift their spirits during potentially challenging days. This practice is the 5th of 9 foundational empowerment skills, in the E.M.P.O.W.E.R.E.D. summer challenge. For more about the challenge click here.
There is ample literature and promotion around gratitude as a life-enhancing practice and one that increases life satisfaction and overall feel-good vibes. By now, you probably know that gratitude is a helpful and positive practice, but as with many life skills, it’s important to know exactly how to implement it in a practical way on a regular basis, especially when guiding your kids. Statements and platitudes such as ‘be grateful’ or “there are so many people who have it way worse so we should be grateful for our good fortune”, can be vague, comparative, and ultimately ineffective in truly enhancing our long-term well-being for kids and parents alike. Instead, the ‘What Went Well and Why’ gratitude practice proves to be more effective.
In his book Flourish, Dr. Martin Seligman, the founder of Positive Psychology (a branch of psychology that studies the science of well-being), describes an evidence-based gratitude practice for increasing well-being/flourishing. This practice is to deliberately write down 3 things that went well each day and why. It’s useful to do this before bed. I have read Seligman’s work, and adopted the practice myself and can immediately notice the empowered feelings that arise from acknowledging that: a) there are always things that go well each day and b) the reason why things go well is usually a result of deliberate intention on my part or on the part of others who care about me.
Kids respond well to structure and especially to positive reinforcement. The ‘What Went Well and Why’ practice is an excellent way to foster confidence and appreciation in your child, that the good things that happen each and every day are a result of people who take action to contribute to their well-being…including themselves! The best way to implement this practice is by writing it down in a notebook before bed. Sit with your child and talk about it, then jot down the ideas. The E.M.P.O.W.E.R.E.D workbook has a chart that your child can fill out for the first week. Alternatively, you can discuss what went well and why each day at bedtime or even at dinner time. Make it a part of your daily dialogue as a family, and over time, your child will develop a more confident, appreciative, responsible, self-determined and empowered outlook on life.
One last thing. Adopting a daily gratitude practice is a form of self-care. It lifts you up, especially as a mother. I use this notebook for myself and I write what went well and why, along with small anecdotes and happy memories. Start with yourself first. You are navigating complex and challenging times right now, and if you give yourself 3 minutes before bed to practice gratitude for yourself, then you will have more in your tank to guide your child.
Now let's take action. I’d love to know in the comments below what went well in your day or week and why. I’d also like to know if you try out the activity with your child and any other tips you have for fellow social—and soulfully—conscious mothers.