The pace of thought-building has been changed through overstimulation, which can be the unlimited access to smartphones, social networks, video games, gifts all the time, or TV excess. Now, children and teenagers are losing the most important socio-emotional skills: putting themselves in another’s shoes, thinking before acting, exposing and not imposing ideas, and learning the art of thanking.
In fact, overstimulation has damaged this generation, raising frustrated children and teenagers, who care little about social issues around them, and complain more than they thank. However, there are still things parents can do to reverse “• or at least attenuate “• this situation, and the solution lays upon gratitude.
A study by Psy.D. Jeffrey Froh and his team shows that grateful young adolescents aged 11-13 are happier and more optimistic, have better social support, are more pleased with their family, school, friends, community, and themselves, and give more emotional support to others than their less grateful counterparts; besides, they also found out that grateful teens aged 14-19 are more pleased with their lives and more engaged in their schoolwork and hobbies. They also use their strengths to improve their community, have higher grades, and are less depressed, envious and materialistic.
All these benefits lead parents to wonder what they can do to foster gratitude in kids. The truth is that gratitude grows whenever love can be felt, and there are strategies to make it clear to children that they are indeed loved, and to teach them how to be grateful for everything they are and posses.
1. Be a positive example to be followed
We are the image our children want to reflect, they see us as a mirror. For this reason, it is our role to start growing gratitude in them from simple day-to-day actions, like saying kind words such as “thank you”, helping them value benefits they receive from others, or also talking to them, telling them what we feel and what we have been through.
According to Cury:
Parents need to talk to their children about their tears, their difficulties, their failures. But instead, parents are leaving their children with a tablet, a smartphone, and are placing them at full-time schools. Parents who only give products to their children, but are unable to convey their history, transform humans into consumers. It is necessary to sit down and talk: Son, I also failed, I also went through pain, I was also rejected. There were times when I cried.
When parents cross their world with that of their children, powerful healthy files are formed in their minds “• memories capable of bringing children and adolescents to work pains losses and frustrations.
Furthermore, at the end of each day at the dinner table, you could encourage everyone to describe something they are grateful for on that day. Or you can also build a “gratitude box”, in which everyone in the family can write in a paper something that happened to them and that they felt grateful for, and deposit it in the box; at the end of each year, this box can be opened during a family time, and everyone could read a paper so to remember all the good things that happened at that year. This way, you will be teaching your children to value the good aspects of life rather than the bad ones.
2. Be attentive to your children and spend time with them
Time is the most precious gift you can give to anyone. When you give time to a person, you grant them a piece of your life which cannot be taken back. Children enjoy spending time with their parents, and that is essentially what they need. You must be attentive to your children and make time for them, for this way you will be helping them develop empathy “• an indispensable emotion for developing gratitude and moral behavior.
Pick a time each day to turn off all the technology, and to simply exercise the primitive human tool of communication and affection. Cury says:
Parents who do not cross their world with that of their children and who only act as rulebooks are able to deal with machines. It is necessary to create a real intimacy with the little ones, a true empathy. Family cannot only criticize behaviors, point faults. Emotion must be conveyed in the relationship. Parents should be the best entertainment for their children. Emotional nutrition is important even if you do not have time, for time must be qualitative. Fifteen minutes a week can be worth a year. Parents have to be teachers of their children’s lives.
3. See what your child’s strong points are and help them use it
Pay attention to your kids and try to identify what their strong points are. Once you do that, encourage them to develop these good features more and more, and to use them for promoting the wellbeing of others around you.
Instead of pointing out faults, parents should promote successes. Every day, children and students have small hits and smart attitudes. Parents who only criticize and embarrass provoke shyness, insecurity, difficulty in undertaking. Human beings have been pointing out wrong behaviors and not promoting healthy characteristics, says Cury.
4. Encourage kids to nurture relationships and to help others
We live today in a liquid modernity, marked by the superficiality and volatility of human relations “• as Zygmunt Bauman, a Polak sociologist, would say. To go against that, you must teach your children that other people matter, and that relationships are a priority. When children help, they feel more connected to those they are helping, and that then helps them to develop and nurture friendships and social relationships.
Tell your kids that being an altruist is a virtue, and that it is a true greatness to be thoughtful of others, to thank others regularly, and to be cooperative, helpful, and giving.
5. Help your children see what things touches them the most
As long as we have a purpose in life, there is still a reason to breathe. Dreams are life projects, and they are what keeps us moving forward. For that reason, it is a parent’s task to assist children in finding their passions and social interests, so that they can learn as much as they can about society’s problems and injustices, and discover ways they can make a difference.
Cury says that:
We need to teach our children to take breaks and contemplate the beautiful. This generation needs a lot in order to feel pleasure: they are addicted to receiving many stimuli to feel crumbs of pleasure. The result: intolerant and superficial individuals. Suicide rates have increased. A family must remember consumption makes nobody happy. Youngsters need to be encouraged to venture, to have contact with nature, to delight themselves with astronomy, with the slow, steady, and deep stimuli of nature, which are not as fast as social networks.
The Power of Gratitude
By now we must all have the conscience that grateful children are decisive for a kind future, and for a world of compassion and care. It demands time and effort, like anything that is worthwhile requires; however, when the best is brought out in our kids, a better world can be built.
It is a parent’s job then to help grow gratitude in children ever since their first breaths are taken, making them look around at their reality, and not just be stuck into their own world. Make it known to them there are people out there who need their help, and that they hold the power to change a life, and even a whole society. Help them be grateful for who they are, what they have, and what they can become.