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Teaching Youth to Have Gratitude

Updated April 09, 2019

Claire Roudabush

SDSU Extension 4H Youth Program Advisor - Hamlin & Kingsbury Counties

Additional Authors: Audrey Rider

Gratitude is often seen as a powerful emotion tied to positive health and wellness for both the individual and the community. Research shows that youth who demonstrate gratefulness are usually happier and more satisfied with their lives, friends, family, community, and selves (Children’s Bureau, n.d.). Grateful youth also tend to show more hopefulness, engage more frequently with hobbies and activities, excel more academically, and can show less signs of depression. Youth that show gratitude can demonstrate enhancement of empathy, improvements in physical health, increased sleep, increased self-esteem, improve psychological health, and improve relationship. Research summarized by the Children’s Bureau (n.d.) has also shown that youth that demonstrate gratitude can also help cope with trauma and promote resilience.

Fostering Gratitude

As youth grow older, it can become more difficult to help them understand the value of being grateful. Here are some strategies to promote and foster gratitude among youth:

  • Be a role model and teach gratitude: Youth often want to be like adults. To assist with this we should act as their role models, and emulate the behavior we expect of our youth.
  • Spend quality time with youth: By showing youth your time, you are showing them gratitude. Be sure that this is quality time and rid your space of distractions as much as possible.
  • Support your child: Help them to understand as well as take ownership of their strengths and talents. Create a positive, safe, environment for youth to explore their abilities growing not only from their successes, but also their failures.
  • Use youth’s strengths to fuel gratitude: As youth begin to understand their strengths, it’s important that they utilize them frequently to have a better understanding of the value that their strengths add to their life. This will help them to strengthen their own abilities to be helpful, cooperative, and grateful.
  • Help youth achieve intrinsic goals: Youth often want to achieve materialistic or extrinsic goals but help them pursue goals that help the greater community and promote growth.
  • Encourage youth to help others: Teach them to lend a hand to someone else who is in need, be thoughtful to others, thank others often, volunteer, and donate.
  • Help youth find meaning and causes that matter to them: Youth should strive to connect with the bigger picture and get involved with a meaningful cause that they are passionate about, ultimately making a visual impact on those around them. This will give the youth a deeper sense of gratitude.

Teaching youth gratitude can be difficult and not any one method works the best for all youth but stay committed to developing gratitude and gratefulness. This will help to develop youth into a well-rounded, empathic, and caring individuals.