The season of giving thanks is upon us! Thanksgiving is a time when we focus on being thankful and gathering together. But what is the difference between gratitude and just saying “thank you”? This week, let’s prepare for the holiday by really considering the reason for the season and exploring what it truly means to be grateful and thankful. We have some great ideas to share with your family as well as activities to keep everyone engaged during holiday down time (is that actually a thing? Holiday down time-HA! ). Also, I promise to refrain from any #grateful #thankful #blessed tomfoolery. It’s not my style anyway.
What is the difference between grateful and thankful?
So much is at our fingertips in today’s age. If I need something, if I want something, I go online and click, there it is, heading to my doorstep sometimes within just a few hours. Instant gratification can make feeling grateful somewhat of an uphill battle. Especially when we want to teach true gratitude to our children.
Have you ever wondered what is the difference between being grateful and being thankful? Generally, these words are used fairly synonymously. We use them to show appreciation for people or things, but there is a difference. So, what does it mean to compare gratitude vs. being thankful?
Grateful as an adjective is defined by Merriam-Webster as being, “appreciative of benefits received; expressing gratitude; affording pleasure or contentment; pleasing by reason of comfort supplied or discomfort alleviated“. In a similar vein, being thankful is defined as being, “conscious of benefit received,” and, “expressive of thanks,” or,
I have always considered both grateful and thankful as interchangeable words meaning essentially the same thing. I have come to discover that there is a deeper and more complex nature to defining gratitude. Thankfulness is an emotion. Gratitude is a practice that one can follow in every day life. A study conducted by the University of California Berkeley states that, “Research suggests that gratitude may be associated with many benefits for individuals, including better physical and psychological health, increased happiness and life satisfaction, decreased materialism, and more.”
Grateful and thankful lessons for kids
There is factual evidence that supports the theory that gratitude and the regular practice of it beginning at a young age encourages positive emotional and social growth. The Journal of Happiness Studies published a 2019 article linking happiness to children as young as 5 years of age. Establishing a positive practice of gratitude while young contributes to the development of happier people.
As grateful kids grow into older children and young adults, this practice fosters more optimism and overall satisfaction. Grateful kids in turn provide more social support to their peers. Further, grateful kids transition into grateful teens. Grateful teens are more engaged socially, academically, and struggle less than many of their counterparts.
How to foster gratitude in kids
The benefits of gratitude for kids is clear and richly steeped in research. I am still a fairly new parent and learning as I go (like most of us). A friend of mine always used to say she wished she was a “MVP parent” but that she was just glad to be on the team. Are any of us really MVPs? I think that we try, but none of us get it right all of the time, though we may play some really great games. My point is, I deeply appreciate access to resources that support me in helping my kids become the best humans they can be to their friends, peers, family and themselves. I want the best for them, that’s really all that we can hope for.
Start with gentle reminders to always say, “Thank you”. Sometimes my kids forget. I know they know, but then the words don’t actually come out. I loathe a forced “thank you”. It comes out like a canned response. That being said, with little kids, we have to keep encouraging them to remember to say the words and to really feel them.
I am from the generation of Baby Boomer parents who always had us write thank you notes. I wrote notes for birthday gifts, Christmas, special events, etc. This made the expectation for more major life events down the road such as graduations, wedding and baby events less tedious because I knew I would be writing these notes of thanks expressing my gratitude. And truth be told, the gratitude I felt was more than just mere thankfulness towards my loved ones generosity, I truly was grateful in the deepest sense of the word. Always put forth positive reinforcement when kiddos thank someone (even if you had to remind them to do the thanking).
Once your kids really get it down to offer their thank you’s to the appropriate people for the appropriate gift and occasion, it’s time to move on to the observance of gratitude. This is a great way to move past the social expectations of simply “saying the right words”. UNC Chapel Hill’s Raising Grateful Kids Project follows these steps of gratitude that you can review with your own kids:
- Noticing – Recognizing the things you have to be grateful for.
- Thinking – Thinking about why you’ve been given those things.
- Feeling – The emotions you experience as a result of the things you’ve been given.
- Doing – The way you express appreciation.
Go over these steps with your kids and talk them out. Ask them to really consider what it means by looking around their environment and putting a microscope to their lives. What do they notice about what they have? Think about the why they might have received such a gift and how it made them feel. Finally, have them ponder the manner in which they express their gratitude. Do they feel that it truly demonstrates the depth of their gratitude? If not, why? How can they dig a little deeper and tap into these sentiments?
Thankful, grateful activities
Some activities that you can do together as a family are to offer this template for a Gratitude Journal. This journal activity is to encourage writing on a 4th grade level. However, it can certainly fit or be tailored to support other grade levels- younger or older students. Additionally, try this Gratitude Calendar activity. The template is set to make a daily list of what you’re grateful for and then reflect upon at the end of the month.
Further Thanksgiving activities:
- Thanksgiving Memory Game
- Thanksgiving Sorting
- Thanksgiving Patterns
- Thanksgiving Scrambled Words
- Thanksgiving Word Search
What are you grateful for this year? Let us know in the comments what your thoughts are and what your family feels most thankful and grateful for! We’d love to hear from you.
Bonus question: Do you prefer your cranberry sauce in the can or homemade? (Hint, the correct answer is IN THE CAN!)
Courtney is an MTT tutor, academic coach, and blog contributor for MTTES. If you check out our FB and Instagram pages, you might see her giving a storytime with her son Jack through the company’s Facebook Live service. Courtney’s love of the English language, learning, and creative writing inspired her to contribute relevant content to teachers, tutors, parents, and homeschoolers seeking support across an array of trending topics. She and her teacher husband have two small children and reside in Baltimore, MD with their dog Lottie May.