In our cycle of monthly values that we focus on with our students, it is not surprising that the values of Thankfulness and Gratitude fall in the month of November. Naturally, it is a time when we focus on the many blessings that we have in our lives, and each student can list a number of people, places, or things for which they are grateful. Through generous hearts and spirits, our students enthusiastically support efforts to reach out to make good things happen for other people throughout the year. This fall alone we have raised money for our sister school in Houston, Texas, as they recover from Hurricane Harvey. We have donated to the Heifer Project, to animal shelters, to the Community Food Bank, and to the food pantry at St. Michael’s Church. Generous spirits are reflected in the many outreach activities that take place at St. Michael’s, and we model well.
On Monday, as we concluded our conversations about Gratitude and Thankfulness, we talked about ways that we can continue to practice this value, not just in November but all year long. Andrea Husson, a specialist in Developmental Science, suggests five big things we can do to develop a habit of gratitude with children: model thankfulness; embed it; talk about it when it is there; talk about it when it is not there; and repeat it often. In modeling thankfulness, we notice reasons for being grateful, think about it, and take note of how it feels when we are grateful. Through activities that foster gratitude, such as helping others in small and big ways, the practice is embedded in our system of values. Talking about gratitude, when it is present and even when it is not, demonstrates to children why a sense of gratitude makes a difference in how we feel and relate to others.
One way to develop a greater sense of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. Even a young child can think of one thing each day for which to be thankful. Perhaps as part of a bedtime ritual, making note of even one or two things that a child is grateful for can help to foster that ongoing sense of thanksgiving. This in turn creates greater optimism, life satisfaction, and a healthier emotional and physical well-being. Personally, I might just take that as a challenge, keeping a daily gratitude journal for the month ahead. Perhaps doing so will keep the focus on thankfulness for all that I have, rather than making lists of all that I want. They say that new habits can be formed in as few as three weeks. So, with pencil and pad in hand, I think I’ll kick off December with a commitment to daily gratitude, embedding it and repeating it often. Sounds like a great way to prepare for Christmas. Grab your journal and join me!
Head of School