Fostering Gratitude Not only on Thanksgiving but Every Day in At-Risk, Troubled Children and Teens

Fostering Gratitude Not only on Thanksgiving but Every Day in At-Risk, Troubled Children and Teens

Research has shown that gratitude plays a big role in an adult’s wellbeing and success.

Recent studies are showing that gratitude is beneficial in children and young adolescents. Grateful adolescents are happier and more optimistic and satisfied with their lives and more engaged in school.  

According to Psychology Today, “Studies on gratitude prove its positive impact on many levels. A study suggests that grateful adolescents are happier, more optimistic, have better social support, are more satisfied with their school, community, friends, and themselves, and give emotional support to others”.

Gratitude is a life skill that must be taught. Parents and caregivers are the first line of defense in teaching gratitude. ARISE Foundation publishes for those working with at risk youth a comprehensive life skills course curriculum - Family Tools Program that facilities, schools, community-based organizations, mental health services, etc., could use which will in part focus on gratitude.

Benefits of Gratitude

  • Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.
  • Gratitude improves energy and physical health.
  • Gratitude improves psychological health.
  • Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression.
  • Grateful people sleep better.
  • Gratitude improves self-esteem.
  • Gratitude increases mental strength.
  • Gratitude lowers stress and anxiety.
  • Gratitude makes one more resilient and better able to deal with adversity.
  • Gratitude makes you more generous and forgiving.

How Gratitude Changes the Brain

What researchers found was "that gratitude causes synchronized activation in multiple brain regions and lights up parts of the brain's reward pathways and the hypothalamus. In short, gratitude can boost neurotransmitter serotonin and activate the brain stem to produce dopamine. Dopamine is our brain's pleasure chemical.

Gratitude is an Important Life Skill that is Learned

Small ways that teachers, caseworkers, juvenile officers, parents, counselors, religious leaders, detention workers, foster care specialists or anyone working with at-risky youth can foster gratitude.

  • Say “thank you” to the children and youth for even a small thing
  • A written note to express gratitude for something that the youth do
  • Listen to what they have to say non- judgmentally
  • Notice the good things they do
  • Keep it positive
  • Do a random act of kindness
  • Smile

Activities that Encourage Ways to Practice Gratitude

  • Have the youth each day, whenever it is convenient, think of a couple of things they are grateful for.
  • Have the youth start a gratitude journal, where each day they write something in their journal that they are grateful for.
  • Have them thank someone each week for doing something for them.
  • In a group session ask the youth the following questions: (This can get the youth to begin to have an attitude of gratitude)
    1. Name a person you are thankful for.
    2. Name a place you are thankful for.
    3. Name a food you are thankful for.
    4. Name a thing you are thankful for.
    5. Name someone who helps you.
    6. Name something you can’t live without.
    7. Name someone you love
    8. Name something that makes you laugh.
  • Complete a gratitude Alphabet. For each letter of the alphabet choose a word that expresses gratitude. This might be difficult so you can do it as a group or individually.