Are you trying to find more ways to help your kids understand gratitude? Gratitude can be a hard concept to teach kids, but using a gratitude journal can help them learn about it. Sure, we model grateful behaviors like saying “thank you” and helping others, but gratitude journals can take that one step further.
Read on to learn the benefits of a gratitude journal with your kids. We have also included ways to start a gratitude journal and get the ball rolling.
What Is A Gratitude Journal?
A gratitude journal is a tangible way to help kids learn about gratitude. We live in a constant state of motion. Our kids are bombarded with the latest and greatest toy that they must have. It’s hard for adults to look away from all the things we want and remind ourselves how much we have to be grateful for. Imagine what it must be like for a kid whose brain isn’t yet developed enough to decipher between these concepts.
Using a gratitude journal can help you and your child start the conversation around gratitude, which may help them understand the concept more. Having daily conversations about what you are grateful for individually and as a family can have lasting benefits not just to the kids in the house, but also for the grownups.
What Are Benefits Of A Gratitude Journal?
You may be wondering whether or not starting a gratitude journal is worth it. After all, practicing gratitude is already strong in your home. That’s great! You may find that adding in the practice of a gratitude journal may be more beneficial than just learning about gratitude.
It can help to foster positive mental health and physical health, improve self-esteem, and increase happiness. These benefits don’t just last while you are writing, but being consistent with the practice is what will lead to the lasting effects.
When kids sit down and focus on what they’re grateful for, oftentimes they’ll point out characteristics that they are proud of. They’re grateful for being able to run fast, their awesome dance moves, or being able to read. When they spend time focusing on the positive characteristics of themselves, it may help boost their self-esteem.
Self-esteem is also gained when kids are challenged and they overcome that challenge. For many kids, writing is a new skill. By empowering them to use this new skill to express what they’re grateful for can help improve their self-esteem.
If your little one can’t write yet, they can show off their artistic abilities and fill out their journal with drawings and get that same self-esteem boost.
Expressing gratitude has been shown to increase happiness. When we help our kids create a habit of writing in their gratitude journal, they can focus on people, objects, and characteristics that they are thankful for.
What we have gratitude for are often the things that bring us the most joy. When kids focus on those things that bring them happiness—our family, pets, the birds outside, new books, or the Caribu video-call they had with Aunt Sarah—they are more likely to feel happy.
Support Physical and Mental Health
Gratitude journals may seem like a small habit during the day, but they’ve actually been shown to support physical and mental health. Gratitude journals can help reduce stress and anxiety, which in turn, can help improve sleep. When kids have less stress they can focus more on their education, playing with their friends, and they will likely have better-listening ears too!
Positivity is a state of mind. It’s an optimistic way of seeing life. It’s that little voice in your head that processes experiences and thoughts with a “glass half full” outlook. One way to foster more positivity is by having a gratitude journal.
We can’t dictate how our kids will think, but teaching them to incorporate a gratitude journal into their day can help them have more positive thoughts. Starting the practice of journaling can also give them a tool to use all throughout their life.
It’s no fault of our kids, but kids are becoming more and more materialistic. In less than 24 hours, you can have anything you want delivered to your doorstep. Their friends have the latest and greatest game console, bike, new toy, or fancy new tablet. It’s easy to get caught up in the next thing they want.
Instead of focusing on what they want, help them focus on the good fortune they have. One way to do this, without droning on like a 90s sitcom parent, is to start a gratitude journal.
While they’re writing in their journal, they will be pushed to focus on all the gifts they already have, both tangible and intangible. After all, there’s nothing wrong with having nice things, but gratitude for what we have is important.
How Do You Start A Gratitude Journal With Your Kids?
Gratitude journals aren’t difficult to start, but being consistent can be a struggle. Set a time during the day that you and your kids focus on filling out their gratitude journals. This can be in the morning during breakfast or part of your wind-down at the end of the day. Here are some other tips for starting a gratitude journal and making it a fun part of your day.
Pick A Journal
The first thing you need is a journal, of course! A gratitude journal can be anything from a spiral notebook to a journal that already has gratitude prompts. Pick out a journal that fits with your child’s reading and writing level. If you decide to use a simple spiral notebook, you can let your child have more ownership over their journal by letting them pick out the one with their favorite front cover.
Once they have their gratitude journal ready to go, you can offer them prompts to start their journaling. Prompts are used to help start their thoughts, but they don’t need to be followed exactly. Some prompts you can use are:
- Who is someone you have thanked today?
- What is your favorite thing about yourself?
- What is someone or something that brings you joy?
- Where is your favorite place to play?
- What do you love about your home?
Let Their Creativity Shine
There’s no wrong way to create a gratitude journal. Your child can write or draw in their journal. Your child may want to write in a colorful pen, marker, or pencil, which is completely fine! This isn’t school.
Number two pencils aren’t required. Let them have fun with their journal! Helping them develop a love for journaling can help them overcome bigger obstacles as they get older, while still maintaining their self-esteem and positivity.
No Judgement Zone
If your child wants to share their journal response with you, encourage that connection! You can offer feedback in a way that promotes thoughtful discussions without judgment. Instead of saying, “good journal entry,” you can ask them, “why does riding your bike bring you joy?” This will help them dig deeper into their feelings of gratitude, and help the two of you build a stronger bond full of trust.
Lead By Example
The best thing we can do for our kids, especially starting a new practice, is to join them. They are watching us more than we think. If we sit down with them and write in our own gratitude journal, they’re more likely to join in.
The other benefit of starting a gratitude journal is you will reap all the same benefits as them. Who doesn’t need a boost of positivity and self-esteem now and then?
Creating a family practice of writing in a gratitude journal can help everyone in the family. You may find yourselves more present, more patient with each other, and perhaps a little happier.
It’s never too early (or too late) to start a gratitude journal. Gratitude is a hard concept to explain to kids, but a gratitude journal can offer them a tangible way to understand it. Gratitude journals not only help to teach the concept, but they may also help improve self-esteem, happiness, support mental and physical health, and help kids become less materialistic.
It doesn’t take much to start a gratitude journal. All you need is a notebook and something to write with! Let your kids take ownership of their gratitude journal by being creative. You can offer them prompts to help them break the writer’s block, but they don’t need to answer the prompt perfectly.
Remember, this is a no-judgment zone; these journals are to express gratitude, not to work on their grammar. Finally, don’t sit this one out! Lead by example and start your own gratitude journal.
At Caribu, we are grateful for you! We know how important sharing our gratitude is. On your next Caribu video-call, you can use our “Caribu Giving Thanks Journal” to share what everyone is thankful for!
Giving thanks can make you happier | Harvard Health
Effects of Expressive Writing on Psychological and Physical Health: The Moderating Role of Emotional Expressivity | NCBI
Journal Writing as a Teaching Technique to Promote Reflection | NCBI