Expressing Gratitude When Things Are Hard

Check out a few ways to practice gratitude with children even when hard things happen.

By Momentous Institute | Nov 20, 2020
Expressing Gratitude When Things Are Hard Blog 01

We know that gratitude is good for us. It not only makes us feel better, it actually has physical and psychological benefits.

As teachers, parents or other adults incorporate lessons about gratitude into the classroom or around the family dinner table, it’s important to keep in mind that asking children to show gratitude when they’re having a hard time can be challenging.

How do we show gratitude in the midst of a global pandemic that has taken loved ones, disrupted life as we know it, caused financial instability and inflicted trauma on countless children and adults?

Gratitude is easy when things are good. But it can be challenging to find much to be grateful for when the world feels dark or when our backs are against the wall.

It’s important for adults to show sensitivity and empathy towards children who may have difficulty showing gratitude during this time. Consider these suggestions.

Express gratitude for resilience:

We can express gratitude for someone’s resilience in pushing through a tough time and the grit it took to make it through. This might sound like:

You’ve really been through a lot this year. I am grateful that you show up every day ready to learn. That takes a lot of courage and strength to keep showing up even when things are hard.

When I was a kid, I never had to do school from home like you are. It takes a lot of resilience to adapt to a new situation, and I am grateful for you as we figure this out. You are developing a lot of grit right now, and that is something you’ll use your whole life!

Identify the source of resilience:

When the time is right – and it might not be right in the moment of struggle – help the child identify what helped them push through the challenge and cultivate an appreciation for that resource or person.

I am so proud of your resilience during this tough time. I wonder what things are helping you make it through this that we can be thankful for?

It sounds like your (mom, dad, grandma, aunt, teacher, etc.) has been a big support to you. I am grateful they are in your life!

It sounds like being on the soccer team has been important this year to help you feel a sense of normalcy. I am grateful you have soccer during this time!

Express gratitude for things that don’t cost anything:

Lastly, don’t forget to express gratitude for the things in life that are free. This is always important, but even more important when so many are facing financial instability. We can always be grateful for things like sunshine, a beautiful butterfly fluttering past, a patch of flowers we pass by every day but don’t notice, or just the opportunity to take a deep breath of fresh air.

Even in tough times, or maybe especially in tough times, taking a moment to practice gratitude can increase dopamine levels in the brain and improve overall wellbeing. Approaching this with sensitivity and understanding with children can help them have these benefits even when they can’t think of much to be grateful for.