Gratitude is a habit we can build just like any other. Habits are developed when specific activities are done over and over. This is true of both good and bad habits. Here are several activities that you and your unique learner can do to develop an attitude of gratitude:
Service work together can be a good step. Role modeling is always best. You might help keep the planet clean by safely picking up trash on your walk. Perhaps you could visit a senior citizen’s residence at Thanksgiving (maybe take artwork to dress up their windows or apartment doors). Service work is a direct path to the positive emotions experienced by giving and receiving thanks.
Teach the whole enchilada! The frontal facing posture, the eye contact, the pause for another’s response, teach the nuts-and-bolts fully. An appropriately and sincerely delivered “thank-you” cannot help but leave both parties affected. This is very true of a sincere apology as well.
Experiencing the Gratitude Spread
The medicine of being grateful is tangible. Help your child dial-in and focus on that pleasant feeling of well-being. “Bookmark” that experience to be recalled at a future time when the medicine of gratitude may be needed again. At a fun and non-stressful time recall with your child that feeling of gratitude again. “Remember that teacher that helped us find the right library book? We were so happy we didn’t have to spend a long time looking! I was so grateful we could get to your soccer practice on time.”
Once you both agree that that was awesome, then the memory can be inserted at times to ease the stress during hard times. “Not everyone at school is mean, remember that super nice teacher in the library that you said thank-you too?” “Think about how happy you were and let your brain calm down.”
The same happy memory can be used at happy times to help the brain learn. Help an interested child to smile, and watch them lean-in with even more interest and positive learning behaviors.
Create a Gratitude Habit
Take time daily to sit with your child/children and share what you are thankful for that day. Many scientific studies have demonstrated that keeping a daily gratitude journal has significant benefits. Though young children, and even older unique learners who struggle with writing, will have less ability to keep an actual journal, the daily sharing time is a great way to develop the same habit.
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You might start with one thing you are grateful for every day. Slowly progressing to three things a day is a good goal because having to recall three forces you to pay attention to what you are grateful for. It is also important to help your child pick new things they are grateful for. That way they learn to look harder for things they can be grateful for.
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