Why Early Education Needs to Include Gratitude

With Thanksgiving around the corner and more holidays coming up, now is a good time to focus on gratitude. It’s an important part of your child’s early education. But what exactly is gratitude and why is it important?

“Gratitude, in the most basic terms, is being thankful and appreciative of the good things you have,” says Sheela Raja, PhD, an assistant professor and clinical psychologist in the Colleges of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago. You can be grateful for a wide range of “gifts,” everything from nature and good food to good luck or a wonderful opportunity for the people in your life, according to Raja.

But why is it important?  Developing a sense of gratitude can be beneficial to children (and adults) in several ways. Being grateful and showing gratitude can decrease stress and has other important emotional health benefits. Grateful people tend to spend less time comparing him or herself with others and feeling jealous or envious. Having gratitude is also one of the first steps to teaching empathy, stepping into someone else’s shoes and realizing that someone did something nice for them even though they didn’t have to. “We want our children to be able to relate to other people’s feelings and to feel a sense of belonging in their classrooms and community,” says Raja. “Cultivating a sense of gratefulness goes a long way toward this goal.”

So we know what it is and why it’s important. Now how do we teach our children? Especially our very young children? The answer to that is modeling. “Kids pick up on what parents do and say,” says Raja. “If you feel grateful about something that happened to you, share it with them.” It doesn’t matter what it is, big or small, we can be grateful for all kinds of things. And that is what will help us be happier people.

We’re grateful for amazing kids and fantastic parents. What are you grateful for?

For some great activities about gratitude, click here.

Scroll to Top