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Gratitude Journaling: What is it and How it Can Help All Kids

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January 03, 2024


As teachers and parents, we’re always on the lookout for ways to strengthen the social and emotional development of our children.

One technique that has been growing in popularity over the years is gratitude journaling.

Gratitude journaling involves taking the time to write down the things we are thankful for in our lives. In this blog post, we will explore what gratitude journaling is and how it can help kids, especially those with special needs.

What Are the Benefits of Gratitude?

gratitude journaling

It is no secret that gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions. When we express our gratitude for what we have, we open ourselves up to more happiness, positivity, and abundance. And while we often encourage our kids to say “thank you,” we may not have taught them why gratitude is important.

Believe it or not, research has shown that gratitude can have a huge impact on mental health. Grateful kids are more likely to feel happier, more optimistic, and have fewer negative emotions. By encouraging gratitude, we can help our kids develop a positive outlook on life, which can lead to stronger mental health.

Grateful kids are more likely to feel empathy toward others, too. When we teach our kids to be thankful for the people and things in their lives, they learn to appreciate the blessings they have, and this translates to a heightened sense of empathy towards others. 

By being grateful, kids can see beyond themselves and develop compassion for others.

When kids experience setbacks or challenges, they may struggle to find the strength to move forward. That is where gratitude can really shine. Grateful kids are better equipped to handle adversity and setbacks. They can find the silver lining in tough situations and remind themselves of all the good things they have in their lives, giving them the resilience to persevere.

Grateful kids tend to have better relationships with others. When we teach our kids to be thankful for the people in their lives, they learn to appreciate what others bring to the table. This can translate to improved social skills, such as better communication and the ability to form strong friendships.

Finally, gratitude can have a major impact on self-esteem. By focusing on the good things in their lives, kids can develop a sense of self-worth and confidence. They can see what they have accomplished and appreciate their own strengths and talents, leading to a positive self-image

What is Gratitude Journaling?

gratitude journaling

Gratitude journaling is a simple but powerful practice. 

Essentially, it involves writing down things you’re thankful for every day. 

This could be as simple as noting three things that went well that day or writing about an event or person for which you are grateful. 

The idea is to focus your attention on the positive aspects of your life, rather than dwelling on negative experiences or situations.

How Do You Start a Gratitude Journal for Kids?

gratitude journaling

Teaching gratitude to kids can be challenging, especially if they struggle with written or verbal expression, or with emotional regulation.

One effective way to teach gratitude to children is by starting a gratitude journal. Here are some tips!

1. Start With a Story

One of the best ways to introduce children to the concept of gratitude is through storytelling. 

Share age-appropriate stories that highlight gratitude, kindness, or generosity. Ask your students questions about the characters’ actions and feelings and invite them to share their own experiences. This will help them understand the meaning of gratitude and how it can positively impact their lives.

2. Give Them Prompts

Prompts can be simple statements or questions that encourage children to reflect on the things they are grateful for. 

These can be customized according to age, interests, or developmental needs. 

For younger children, prompts can be related to daily routines, such as “I am grateful for my cozy blanket” or “I am thankful for my favorite toy.” 

For older children, prompts can be related to social interactions, such as “I am grateful for my friend who helped me with my homework” or “I am thankful for my teacher who always encourages me.”

3. It Doesn’t Have to Be Handwritten

While a traditional gratitude journal involves writing, children with writing difficulties or visual-spatial strengths may prefer alternative methods – and that’s okay!

 Gratitude journals can be art-based, with children creating a visual representation of what they are grateful for, such as drawings, collages, or paintings. 

Some children may prefer digital journals, using photos, videos, or voice recordings to document their gratitude. The key is to find a method that works best for the child and promotes their sense of ownership and creativity.

4. Journal Together

Gratitude journals can be a shared experience between the child and the teacher, parent, or caregiver. This can increase social and emotional connections and encourage discussions about gratitude and its benefits. 

Teachers can set aside a specific time each day or week for journaling together, modeling gratitude expressions, and offering support and guidance. 

Journaling together can also foster a sense of community and belonging, as children share their experiences and learn from each other.

5. Make it Part of the Daily Routine

Establishing a consistent routine can help kids develop a habit of gratitude. 

Find a time each day that works best for journaling. It could be in the morning, after breakfast, or before bedtime, for parents. Make sure they have a quiet and comfortable space to reflect. Consistency helps kids understand that gratitude is a daily practice and not a one-time task.

There are a few different ways you can incorporate gratitude journaling into your classroom routine, depending on the needs and preferences of your students. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Devote a few minutes at the beginning or end of each class to have students write down one or two things they are thankful for.
  • Have students keep gratitude journals as a regular homework assignment, and check in with them periodically to review what they have written.
  • Use gratitude prompts as a starting point for writing activities or discussion questions in class. For example, you could ask students to write about a time when someone did something kind for them, or discuss things they are grateful for as a group.

6. Remove Expectations

Starting gratitude journaling with kids might not go as planned. Some days they may complain or refuse to write anything. Don’t worry. 

Gratitude journaling is a personal experience, and it should be fun. Don’t force your expectations onto your child. Encourage and support them, but ultimately, let them find their way. 

7. Celebrate Milestones

Celebrate your child’s successes and milestones in their gratitude journaling. Create a special page for each milestone and encourage your child to share their achievements. For example, if your child writes in their gratitude journal every day for two weeks, reward them with a special activity or treat.

Final Thoughts

gratitude journaling

Gratitude journaling is a simple yet powerful technique that can have long-lasting benefits for kids’ mental health and overall wellbeing. 

As parents and teachers, we have the opportunity to incorporate gratitude journaling into our home and classroom routines – and to help our students cultivate a positive outlook on life. 

Whether you start with a few minutes of journaling each day or incorporate gratitude prompts into your lessons, there are many creative ways to incorporate this practice into your teaching approach. 

So why not give it a try and see how gratitude journaling can benefit your students?

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a passionate special education teacher with [number] years of experience, uses her classroom knowledge to craft engaging stories that celebrate the unique strengths of all learners.