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Happy New Year: Reflection and Gratitude for Kids 

Two African American women smiling at each other while holding a baby.
Two women smiling at each other while holding a baby.

What a wonderful time of year to reflect back on the year previous and practice gratitude for all that we had throughout the year! As adults, many of us practice this often, not just at the end of the year. But do you practice this with your own children or the children that are in your care? The practice of gratitude and reflection is beneficial for many reasons. I will explore those reasons and discuss how to teach children to reflect and discuss things they are looking forward to or are grateful for. 


As a parent and educator, I believe that we should constantly check in with our children (at home and in classrooms)  to ask them about their day, their highs and lows, and about challenging moments they may have encountered. This creates a safe space to talk about problem solving, emotions, relationships, and more. I think these conversations can help children to become emotionally strong and resilient by getting to know themselves better and realizing that mistakes and challenging moments can be lessons. 


Research shows that gratitude really can help us! 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude by Amy Morin highlights specific studies that show seven ways in which practicing gratitude can improve sleep, relationships, physical and mental health, self esteem, empathy, and reduces aggression and stress (Morin, 2015). 


If your children are old enough, work through this 2023 Gratitude, Reflection and Goal Planning sheet. If not, do it first for yourself. You might want to use this sheet twice; once for your personal life and again for your business if you own or operate a child care business or even lead a classroom. You can reflect on the high and lows of running your program, what worked well, what didn’t, what you’ll change in the new year, etc. 


Even if your children aren’t old enough to fill out the worksheet with you, you can still make talking about gratitude a part of your daily routine. Try talking about things you are grateful for at dinner or bedtime. I introduced gratitude to my four year old by asking her to think of things that she really loves or cares about a lot. She mentioned her cat and seeing the moon. She’s on the right track! You can also talk about gratitude in daily conversations to put it into your child’s mind, such as, “Wow, I sure am grateful that your Dad picked up another gallon of milk for our cereal this morning,” or “I am so grateful we made it to Grandma’s house before the snow came!” 


I see reflection and gratitude as an integral part of family (or school) life. In my experience, when asking children about their day, they might say that they don’t know what they did, they don’t want to talk about it, or they don’t remember. Having a special reflection and gratitude time at some point in the day, whether that be at dinner, at bedtime, or even in the morning to talk about how the day will go, can really strengthen family (or student/teacher) communication and connection. I find that talking in the car or talking when kids are busy playing isn’t the best time for these conversations. Children need time to unwind and decompress after school or after a busy couple of hours of play.


Pick a specific time that you might like to introduce an activity such as: having an end of the day reflection, “What was the best part of your day?”,  a bedtime gratitude list, or a morning plan before the morning hustle and bustle, “What are you excited for today?” “What are you nervous about today?” “What will you work hard on today?” See what topics come up for your child and how they might continue to open up more and more. 


A woman and a young child playing with colored pencils and small blue figurines.
A woman and a young child playing with colored pencils and small blue figurines.



 

Meghan is a born and raised Montanan, mama to a new baby boy, a busy preschooler, and a bonus mom to two amazing teenagers. She holds both a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Early Childhood Education. Meghan is currently working part time with Raise Montana as a project specialist where she writes blogs, curriculum guides, and hosts the seasonal book clubs. Meghan is passionate about using her experience as an early childhood educator and as a mom to bring knowledge and inspiration to Montana child care providers.


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