Illalong News

  • 9th November, 2018

Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

The Oxford dictionary defines gratitude as: (noun) The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Much research is now being undertaken into the science of gratitude and the effects that learning to be grateful and practicing gratitude have on people across the lifespan (in fact prior to 2005, there were no known studies into gratitude and well-being in young children). And the results are truly positive and quite far reaching, far more so than we previously understood. Research by Sara Algoe, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina, explains that a significant key to well-being is being able to develop and maintain relationships. Gratitude can be the glue that brings people together as well as creating happiness from the inside out. In her studies, she calls "Find, Remind and Bind" the process of being sincere in your thanks and then getting a positive response in return. This creates stronger relationship bonds with long-lasting side effects. Gratitude, as a habit, is also known to improve general mood and even has tangible benefits to your body and mind – it can lead to:

  • Less depression
  • Better impulse control (spending, eating, drinking, etc.)
  • Greater optimism and positivity
  • Stronger immune system
  • Lower levels of stress hormone cortisol
  • Lower blood pressure

But, it does not work if you are not sincere. Studies also show that just saying the words “thank you” is not enough. You have to mean it.

As I regularly say, as parents we are our child’s first and most important teacher and role model. Our children want to be like us. We provide the blueprint for what to say and what to do and in what contexts.  We all aspire to raise thoughtful, kind and optimistic children so given that gratitude has such benefits for all people, we need to stop and ask ourselves the question, “Am I grateful?”

Do your children see you openly expressing appreciation for all that is good in our privileged lives, rather than focussing on the negative? Do they see you sincerely thanking people for the things they do? How can we foster gratitude in our children and young people?

At our College we involve all of our students in a range of activities to help them practice being grateful – our efforts to support charities and raise funds are examples of this, but as parents, knowing how important gratitude is to a child’s overall sense of well-being, what can you do to help foster this character strength?

  1. Role model and teach gratitude: Expressing gratitude through words, writing, and small gifts or acts of reciprocity are all ways to teach children how to become grateful.
  2. Spend time with your children: T.I.M.E is another way to spell love. Children (and, though you may not think it), even adolescents love to spend time with their parents. This time will help children develop an understanding of what you appreciate and why. Time with children provides an opportunity for the modelling of empathy, the most important emotion for developing gratitude and moral behaviour.
  3. Support your child’s developing independence: By allowing children to take ownership over their own strengths and letting them be responsible for developing them, children are able to develop an appreciation for the things they are good at, thus inviting gratitude into their daily life. To directly promote gratitude, encourage and help your children to use their strengths to thank and be kind to others.
  4. Help your child to achieve intrinsic goals: It is very easy for people, especially young people, to pursue extrinsic—or materialistic—goals, such as wanting the latest fashions or buying the latest technology. As parents we can support the development of gratitude in children and young people by raising awareness of intrinsic goals, such as engaging in activities that provide community, affiliation, and growth. As part of this, encourage them to thank those who have helped them meet their goals. It is so important for everyone to have an appreciation of those who have helped us along our way.

Karen Roman
Assistant Principal: Junior School

< Back to News