Someone recently asked me if I had made any New Year’s resolutions. I hadn’t. Last year I had made a number of them because it wasn’t only a new year, it was also a new decade. I had so many grand plans. And then Covid hit… All of my wonderful resolutions went out the window. Therefore, my view this year was that there was no point in making any resolutions, it’s still going to be a miserable year.
As I reflected, I realized that my decision was not because I don’t believe in resolutions. I was allowing myself to get caught up in negative energy. Not only is this not healthy for me, it also results in a negative attitude that can rub off onto people, including my son. This made me realize that I can make a plan for this year. A resolution to find daily gratitudes in a world that is often filled with chaos, uncertainty and despair.
I also realize I can model healthy gratitudes for my child, so I can help him find things in the world to be grateful for. Recently, I have started to keep a gratitude journal. It is a great way to reflect on the good things that happened. These days can feel so repetitive, frustrating and downright awful at times. Sometimes it’s difficult to think that anything good is going on. But I know when I put my mind to it, I can always find something positive. Perhaps the sun is shining, or I had a delicious meal, or I found time to watch an episode of one of my favourite shows. While these things may seem small, I always find that if I write these down at the end of the day, I am better able to go to bed focusing on the positive rather than the negative.
Gratitude journals don’t need to be an adult only activity. This can be a great daily exercise for children as well. We are going through a time that can be scary for kids, so remembering all of the good things can be extremely beneficial for them. Below are some suggestions for making this a positive and healthy routine between you and your child.
Let Children Decorate the Journal
There are many online templates for gratitude journals, but it’s great to have your child decorate it to personalize it. Stickers, pictures and drawings are great additions to make the journal feel extra special, which can help children be more willing to keep up with the journal.
Make Journaling a Pleasant Routine
It’s great to do the journal at the end of the day, as a way to unwind. Perhaps create a playlist of songs your child loves, and play it in the background. I have my own playlist of inspirational songs that uplift me. Everytime I play it, it puts me in a calm and positive headspace. Additionally, including a healthy evening snack into the ritual will help make journaling a fun experience.
Journal Entries Should be Simple and Quick
Journaling is meant to be an easy way to reflect on the day and find the joys in life. It isn’t meant to feel like schoolwork; some children may prefer to draw or decorate their journal entries rather than write them. Let your child approach their journal in a way that makes it a positive experience for them. Additionally, allowing the child to decorate each entry is a great way to not only personalize the journal, but is also a way for them to express feelings.Things that can be discussed include:
Something good that happened today. (This could be as simple as advancing a level on a video game)
Someone who did something nice for me. (This could be as simple as a sibling sharing a toy)
Something nice I did for someone. (This could be as simple as filling the pet’s water dish).
Creating a gratitude journal is a great practice in being present and appreciating the world around us, even in the most difficult of times. A couple of years ago a friend of mine lost his battle with cancer. Even when he was suffering and knew the end was near, he continued to keep a gratitude journal to ensure he remembered all the things to be grateful for. He amazed me, and I have learned from him. Even in the darkest of times, there are silver linings. It may feel impossible to see them, but if we can take a moment to find even the smallest of things to be grateful for, we can find the strength, courage and happiness to keep on going. This is an important lesson to teach our children.
Written by Damion Nurse
For Children: A fun video to remind us of cool things to be thankful for.
For Youth: A useful gratitude worksheet for teens.
For Caregivers: Some reasons why a gratitude journal can make your child happier.
For Educators: a helpful video about teaching students gratitude.