The Mental Health Benefits of Gratitude for Kids & Teens

The Mental Health Benefits of Gratitude for Kids & Teens

Erika Vivyan, PhD

Erika Vivyan

Erika J. Vivyan, PhD (she/her/hers) is a bilingual (Spanish-English) Licensed Psychologist based in Austin, Texas. She specializes in providing therapy for kids, teens, and young adults with anxiety and behavioral disorders. Dr. Vivyan also provides in-depth psychological and psychoeducational assessments for school-aged students.

The Mental Health Benefits of Gratitude for Kids & Teens

Share
No
The Mental Health Benefits of Gratitude for Kids & Teens

Although the Thanksgiving holiday is behind us, continuing the practice of gratitude has mental health benefits for all of us. Gratitude may be especially helpful for kids and teens who suffer from symptoms of anxiety and depression, given its ability to improve symptoms associated with both of these categories of mental health disorders. Here are a few ways that gratitude can be helpful for kids and teens:

1. Expressing Gratitude Improves Mood

Simply writing or stating a reason to be thankful can improve mood. Encourage kids and teens to make a habit of expressing gratitude and they are more likely to report positive emotions such as happiness and satisfaction. This can help to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression, both of which limit the amount of pleasant, positive emotions that are experienced day-to-day.

2. Gratitude increases social connection.

Sharing gratitude can improve our children’s social bonds with family and friends. In a recent study of high school adolescents’ social media use and gratitude, results suggest that gratitude may be associated with the use of social media for meaningful conversations but does not increase overall social media use (Maheux et al., 2021). This is good news for our kids and teens who have been more connected to peers through social media since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Try encouraging more #gratitude posts and reap the benefits of stronger friendships.

3. Gratitude helps to reduce suicide risk.

Previous research has established that gratitude reduces suicide risk in young adults by reducing depression and increasing self-esteem (Lin, 2015). In a more recent study, positive self-compassion that includes gratitude helped to reduce suicide risk among adolescents following a traumatic experience (Liu et al., 2020). Given the increased risk of suicidal ideation for teens struggling with anxiety and depression, the use of gratitude can help to manage of one mental health’s most dangerous symptoms.

4. Practicing gratitude improves sleep.

Both anxious and depressed children tend to experience disturbances in sleep, and gratitude may be the answer. Thinking about the things we are grateful for just before bed can improve sleep quality and duration (Wood et al., 2008). Try a little gratitude journaling or saying a prayer of gratitude at bedtime to activate these grateful thoughts.

5. Parents and caregivers can model gratitude at home.

Good news! When parents are more grateful, their children often express more gratitude (Rothenberg et al., 2016; Hussong et al., 2018). As we continue a season of gratitude this year, be sure to model your gratitude by sharing thanks for the people and things that bring joy to your life. Bonus points if you turn this exercise into a way to praise your children (e.g., “I am so grateful that my kids work hard in school and have been so helpful around the house.”) and reap the benefits of increased joy and positive emotion.

How will you and your family benefit from more gratitude this year?


References

  • Hussong, A. M., Langley, H. A., Rothenberg, W. A., Coffman, J. L., Halberstadt, A. G., Costanzo, P. R., & Mokrova, I. (2018). Raising grateful children one day at a time. Applied Developmental Science, 23(4), 371–384. https://doi.org/10.1080/10888691.2018.1441713
  • Lin, C. C. (2015). The relationships among gratitude, self-esteem, depression, and suicidal ideation among undergraduate students. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 56(6), 700–707.  https://doi.org/10.1111/sjop.12252
  • Liu, A., Wang, W., & Wu, X. (2020). Understanding the Relation Between Self-Compassion and Suicide Risk Among Adolescents in a Post-disaster Context: Mediating Roles of Gratitude and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Frontiers in Psychology, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01541
  • Maheux, A. J., Nesi, J., Galla, B. M., Roberts, S. R., & Choukas‐Bradley, S. (2021). #grateful: Longitudinal Associations between adolescents’ social media use and gratitude during the COVID‐19 pandemic. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 31(3), 734–747. https://doi.org/10.1111/jora.12650
  • Rothenberg, W. A., Hussong, A. M., Langley, H. A., Egerton, G. A., Halberstadt, A. G., Coffman, J. L., Mokrova, I., & Costanzo, P. R. (2016). Grateful parents raising grateful children: Niche selection and the socialization of child gratitude. Applied Developmental Science, 21(2), 106–120. https://doi.org/10.1080/10888691.2016.1175945
  • Wood, A. M., Joseph, S., Lloyd, J., & Atkins, S. (2009). Gratitude influences sleep through the mechanism of pre-sleep cognitions. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 66(1), 43–48.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpsychores.2008.09.002

Erika Vivyan, PhD

Erika Vivyan

Erika J. Vivyan, PhD (she/her/hers) is a bilingual (Spanish-English) Licensed Psychologist based in Austin, Texas. She specializes in providing therapy for kids, teens, and young adults with anxiety and behavioral disorders. Dr. Vivyan also provides in-depth psychological and psychoeducational assessments for school-aged students.

ADAA Blog Content and Blog Comments Policy

ADAA Blog Content and Blog Comments Policy

ADAA provides this Website blogs for the benefit of its members and the public. The content, view and opinions published in Blogs written by our personnel or contributors – or from links or posts on the Website from other sources - belong solely to their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of ADAA, its members, management or employees. Any comments or opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors only. Please remember that the open and real-time nature of the comments posted to these venues makes it is impossible for ADAA to confirm the validity of any content posted, and though we reserve the right to review and edit or delete any such comment, we do not guarantee that we will monitor or review it. As such, we are not responsible for any messages posted or the consequences of following any advice offered within such posts. If you find any posts in these posts/comments to be offensive, inaccurate or objectionable, please contact us via email at [email protected] and reference the relevant content. If we determine that removal of a post or posts is necessary, we will make reasonable efforts to do so in a timely manner.

ADAA expressly disclaims responsibility for and liabilities resulting from, any information or communications from and between users of ADAA’s blog post commenting features. Users acknowledge and agree that they may be individually liable for anything they communicate using ADAA’s blogs, including but not limited to defamatory, discriminatory, false or unauthorized information. Users are cautioned that they are responsible for complying with the requirements of applicable copyright and trademark laws and regulations. By submitting a response, comment or content, you agree that such submission is non-confidential for all purposes. Any submission to this Website will be deemed and remain the property of ADAA.

The ADAA blogs are forums for individuals to share their opinions, experiences and thoughts related to mental illness. ADAA wants to ensure the integrity of this service and therefore, use of this service is limited to participants who agree to adhere to the following guidelines:

1. Refrain from transmitting any message, information, data, or text that is unlawful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, that may be invasive of another 's privacy, hateful, or bashing communications - especially those aimed at gender, race, color, sexual orientation, national origin, religious views or disability.

Please note that there is a review process whereby all comments posted to blog posts and webinars are reviewed by ADAA staff to determine appropriateness before comments are posted. ADAA reserves the right to remove or edit a post containing offensive material as defined by ADAA.

ADAA reserves the right to remove or edit posts that contain explicit, obscene, offensive, or vulgar language. Similarly, posts that contain any graphic files will be removed immediately upon notice.

2. Refrain from posting or transmitting any unsolicited, promotional materials, "junk mail," "spam," "chain mail," "pyramid schemes" or any other form of solicitation. ADAA reserves the right to delete these posts immediately upon notice.

3. ADAA invites and encourages a healthy exchange of opinions. If you disagree with a participant 's post or opinion and wish to challenge it, do so with respect. The real objective of the ADAA blog post commenting function is to promote discussion and understanding, not to convince others that your opinion is "right." Name calling, insults, and personal attacks are not appropriate and will not be tolerated. ADAA will remove these posts immediately upon notice.

4. ADAA promotes privacy and encourages participants to keep personal information such as address and telephone number from being posted. Similarly, do not ask for personal information from other participants. Any comments that ask for telephone, address, e-mail, surveys and research studies will not be approved for posting.

5. Participants should be aware that the opinions, beliefs and statements on blog posts do not necessarily represent the opinions and beliefs of ADAA. Participants also agree that ADAA is not to be held liable for any loss or injury caused, in whole or in part, by sponsorship of blog post commenting. Participants also agree that ADAA reserves the right to report any suspicions of harm to self or others as evidenced by participant posts.

RESOURCES AND NEWS
Evidence-based Tips & Strategies from our Member Experts
RELATED ARTICLES
Block reference
TAKING ACTION

My struggle with depression and anxiety is one I still deal with every day. The hardest part is…