26 February 2010 08:53 AM

Gratitude Journals

by rbavaria

One of the most frequent pieces of advice you’ll see here at the Dr. Rick Blog is to establish and maintain healthy, productive routines for children.  Kids of all ages, pre-school to teens, need and want routines.  The routines make them feel safe, able to predict what’s expected of them, and provide them with reassuring structure.  Routines help kids develop lifelong habits – a strong work ethic, strong values, healthy attitudes, and deep beliefs.


Routines take many forms.  Bedtime and morning routines.  Mealtime routines.  Homework and study routines.  Play and family time routines.  Weekend routines.  There are, of course, times when the routines are discarded – vacations, celebrations, holidays – and that makes the freedom all the more special.  But special or not, we all know the often-felt but seldom-acknowledged relief when vacation’s over and we can sleep in our own bed again and return to comforting routines.


So, here’s another idea for a routine that can add fun, inspiration, and some daily quiet time to your family’s life.  Maintain a gratitude journal, where you individually or as a family write down the one thing you’re grateful for on this day.

  1. The format doesn’t matter.  The journal can be in a fancy leather-bound notebook, an inexpensive three-ring binder, or an electronic format.  Doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that there’s some time – just before bed makes sense – for everyone to quiet down, reflect on the day, and put in simple words the one thing (or person or event or thought) you’re grateful for today.

  2. Everything counts.  You’ll be surprised at what your kids will write.  Sometimes it’ll be humorous, sometimes touching, sometimes seemingly out of left field.  They will also get insights into what makes you grateful, and it’s a great opportunity to show support and encouragement for them.  (“Today I’m grateful and proud that Cindy got an A on her spelling test.  It sure seems as if her studying is paying off.”)

  3. It can be private or shared.  Some people like to share what they’ve written.  Others like to keep their journals private.  Either way works.  The important thing is that you’re spending some time thinking, writing, and establishing a practice that can be maintained lifelong.

  4. Be creative.  I’ve seen journals that are little works of art, full of illustrations, clippings, photos, and meaningful quotations.  They become as much scrapbook or memory book as journal.  That’s okay.  (I know families where the journals become prized possessions, brought out years later as reminders of family togetherness.)

  5. Notice the effect it’ll have.  Once the practice is set, give it some time, then notice how everyone becomes more attuned to the positive in their lives, how they quietly get in the habit of grateful thinking, how the simple act of writing loses its anxiety because it’s a daily occurrence, how everyone increasingly notices the simple happy moments and acts of kindness they encounter.

If a little routine of a few minutes’ writing each evening creates bedtime quiet, encourages reflection, brings the family together, and supports an important skill like writing, what’s not to like?


Share gratitude or two with us here at Dr. Rick Blog.  What’s your family grateful for today?



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