The Importance of Gratitude During a Pandemic

Gratitude is always important which is why it’s part of the Grand Feelings Exit Plan of our Jump In! Stand Strong! Rise Up! comprehensive emotional management plan here at Hope 4 Hurting Kids. But, what about gratitude during a pandemic? Is it important that we both encourage our kids to practice an attitude of gratitude and do so ourselves? The answer, of course, is yes, so let’s have a look at the why and how of practicing gratitude during a pandemic.

Why Gratitude is Important

The scientific benefits of gratitude are well researched and documents. In a 2014 article in Forbes, psychotherapist Amy Morin lists seven scientific benefits of gratitude including:

  1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.
  2. Gratitude improves physical health.
  3. Gratitude improves psychological health.
  4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
  5. Grateful people sleep better.
  6. Gratitude improves self-esteem.
  7. Gratitude increases mental strength.

Gratitude is a proven stress reducers and helps people to recover from trauma. As we, and our kids, face an overwhelming change in the short term and an uncertain future in the long term, mental strength and an ability to deal with trauma will be critical for both the kids in our lives and for us.

Fostering Gratitude in Kids

So, as your kids adjust to their new normal, and between all the times they tell you they are bored, what can you do to help them to practice gratitude. Here are four steps you need to take to foster a sense of gratitude in kids.

1. Be Intentional. It’s one thing to tell kids that they need to be grateful, it’s another to take concrete steps and give them specific activities they can do to practice gratitude. Stop thinking about gratitude as a characteristic, and start think about it as a muscle that needs to be worked out. Meme’s like the following are common on social media these days:

While the underlying message that we are blessed to live in a day and age where the impact of this virus and disruption is less than it could be, you can’t guilt someone into feeling gratitude. You can take some of the specific steps below to foster the feeling though.

2. Model It. You can’t expect the young people who take their cues from you to be grateful if they don’t see you practicing it. Pick some of the suggestions below, but before you make them a homeschool requirement, do them yourself. Make gratitude part of your daily conversation. Be honest with your kids. Explain that you struggle, especially now, with feeling grateful and you’re taking steps to fix that. “Invite” them to travel that path with you.

3. Show Grace. Kids are kids, and they are not always grateful by nature (neither are we). They may struggle to come up with things they are grateful for or expressing that gratitude, They may seem selfish or self-involved or uninterested. Remember that you can’t force them to be grateful, you can only help them to express it in ways that build the gratitude muscle.

4. Take Care of Yourself. If you want to help the kids in your life, whether it’s dealing with trauma and difficult emotions or fostering a sense of gratitude, you have to take care of yourself first.

Ideas For Fostering Gratitude

Here are some simple ideas for helping kids flex their gratitude muscles.

1. Download and App. There are plenty of great apps out there for helping kids (and you) record things you are grateful for. It is easy to focus on the negative, especially during trying times, but these apps force the focus back to positive things.

Here are some iPhone apps to search for in the app store (note: you should check out the apps yourself before downloading it for your child as some of these apps may include a social media component that you might not want for your younger kids):

  • Simple Gratitude Journal (this is one of my favorites)
  • Gratitude Journal – The Life-changing App (this is my second favorite)
  • New Gratitude Journal
  • Gratitude Journal – The Original
  • 10 Reasons I Am Glad For Gratitude Journal
  • Three Good Things – A Happiness Journal

2. The Silver Lining Cloud. This simple activity from the book “Teaching Kids to Thrive” will help your young person find the positive in what seems like a negative situation.

3. Other Activities from Teaching Kids to Thrive. Teaching Kids to Thrive is a great book for educators on teaching kids various skills to help them thrive in life. There is a whole chapter on gratitude, and this page includes a bunch of activities which weren’t included in the book. There are a bunch of great activities on the page, but Your Three Words on Gratitude” and “Draw a Quote are a couple of my favorite.

4. Make a Gratitude Tree. This site includes a lot of great general information on the importance of gratitude and also includes instructions and come templates for planting a Gratitude Tree.

5. Play the “Gratitude in Threes” Game With Your Kids. This is a simple game you can play with all your kids. Sit at a table or in a circle. As you go around the table, take turns coming up with categories that fit the form “I Am Grateful for these Three ____.” Fill in the blank with different items like:

  • Teachers
  • Family Members
  • Things in Nature
  • Activities
  • Friends
  • Places
  • Foods
  • Animals

Everyone around the table should answer the question with three things from the category that they are grateful for. If you have younger kids, the adult may need to provide all of the categories.

Try some of these activities with your kids and all your extra time and turn what you may be seeing as a negative experience into a positive experience full of gratitude for both you and your kids.

For more information and resources related to Covid-19, please visit our Covid-19 (Coronavirus) Resource Page.
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Written by Wayne Stocks
Wayne is the founder and executive director of Hope 4 Hurting Kids. He is a happily married father of four kids with a passion for helping young people who are going through rough times. In addition to Hope 4 Hurting Kids, Wayne previously started I Am A Child of Divorce and Divorce Ministry 4 Kids to help kids who are dealing with the disruption of their parents' relationship. These are now part of Hope 4 Hurting Kids. Wayne speaks frequently at conferences and churches on issues related to helping kids learn to deal with difficult emotions and life in modern families. Wayne lives with his wife, three youngest kids, three dogs and an insane collection of his kids' other pets outside of Columbus, Ohio. In addition to his work with Hope 4 Hurting Kids, Wayne is a partner in a local consulting firm, an avid reader, coaches his son's soccer team and is a proud supporter of Leicester City Football Club (and yes, for those in know, his affinity for the club does predate the 2016 championship). You can reach Wayne at wayne@hope4hurtingkids.com.