By Heather Burdo
As parents, we do our best each day to ensure we’re teaching our children right from wrong. We play with them, teach them new skills, and cheer on their accomplishments. One of the skills we should include is mindset and gratitude - they both go hand-in-hand.
We teach our kids about the importance of eating their vegetables and fruit, going outside for some physical activity, but we mindlessly neglect mindset. I never thought how important it was, either. It’s easy to assume that young children don’t need that right now, but the truth is that it’s important to start early on.
The more we work on mindset and gratitude each day, our children will make it a natural habit. When challenging situations arise, they will have the mindset tools to rationally think things through. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues are at an all-time high. Let’s prepare our kids to deal with their mindset and emotions as early as possible.
One of the first things I did with my son was taught him to use a gratitude journal. Writing down what you’re grateful for each day can make a world of difference. Even the smallest things (for example, my son wrote down “toads” as one thing he was grateful for) They may put down random, small things they are grateful for, but to them, it’s something huge that makes them happy.
Try to have your child write down at least three things daily in a journal that they are grateful for. You can either use a blank notebook and decorate it or purchase one online already made.
There are several ways you can practice mindfulness with your child. You can sit down in a room and be completely silent. We’re talking about young children so don’t expect them to sit down too long. Try 5 minutes at first and work your way up.
One thing I did was ask him, at least a few times per week, to name 2-3 things he was grateful for. We did this in the car on the way to different places, which may be ideal for you if you’re consistently on the go.
Mindfulness is all about being aware of how you’re feeling. It can be hard for young children to express this. Try having your child sit down and draw a picture of how they are feeling. From there, you could ask them when they started feeling that way. What caused that feeling? From there, you can come up with a solution on how to handle the feelings and overcome the frustration of that certain scenario - in kid terms of course.
Be sure this is age-appropriate with your child, of course, but allow independence whenever possible. For example, when it comes to picking out an outfit for the next day, have them choose a shirt on their own. When you are preparing dinner, ask what type of vegetable they want. Make sure they pick up their plates and other small tasks. Be sure to show how proud you are that they are so independent. A lot of older individuals lack the independent skill, so it’s important to instill this in your children now but by also reminding them how they do a good job on their own.
Of course, kids are only small once and this isn’t to say they should do everything on their own, just a few small things here and there.
For me, I noticed my son behaves better when I include him on things. He feels good about himself when he does something alone. He also loves making his bed and then shows me how well he did (kids love our praise, so I make sure to express how good of a job he did and how his bed looks great.)
Each child is different, and you will know just what tasks to give your child so they can be independent, too.
Be Kind, Be Helpful, and Show Positivity Yourself
One of the best ways to show your child what a positive mindset is like and what gratitude looks like is to express each in front of them. When you’re in the grocery store, help an elderly individual out, tell the cashier to have a good day, and other nice gestures.
When your child sees you have a bad day - because nobody is perfect and it’s bound to happen - let them see how you handle the situation. Despite having bad days sometimes, always show gratitude and positivity.
Just like everyone else, I have bad days here and there. I just try to remember that my son is watching me and how I react to certain things is what he thinks will be okay. For example, one day everything seemed to happen and things were going wrong. I could feel myself start to show negativity. My son was around though, so I had to quickly change the way I was reacting. It was about house repairs. It seemed like everything was going wrong at once. I changed my mindset to “at least we have a house and we are lucky that your dad is great at fixing things so we don’t have to hire anyone.”
“Happiness doesn’t bring us gratitude, it is gratitude that brings us happiness.” – Anonymous
Children hear everything, even when we think they aren’t listening. Let them see how you can handle stressful situations, how you can pick yourself up from a bad scenario, and remain optimistic. Nobody is cheerful and 100 percent positive all the time. However, the more we try to express this positivity and gratitude in front of our children, the more we set them up for a successful mindset as they get older.
Heather is a freelance writer from New York. When she isn't writing about parenting, she is tending to her own two handsome boys. She enjoys all things related to motivation and mindset. All work aside, she enjoys activities outdoors and being with her family.
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