Create and Use a Gratitude Journal
At even the best of times it is hard to remember to thank God for all of His goodness. It is even more difficult to do during trying times. Right now is a very trying time, which means it is a great time for your family to create and use Gratitude Journals. I will walk you through creating a Gratitude Journal for each of your kids (and yourself) and then give some suggestions on how to use them.
Creating a Gratitude Journal
Early Elementary (K-3rd Grade)
Kids between Kindergarten and 3rd grade can keep a Gratitude Journal where they primarily represent what they are grateful for using pictures. Have them create a Gratitude Journal cover and then print these inside pages, with space for pictures and a single line to include text:
Late Elementary and Middle School (4th-8th Grade)
Kids between 4th and 8th grade might benefit from being able to journal the things they are grateful for using both words and pictures. Have them create a Gratitude Journal cover and then print these inside pages, with space for pictures and blank lines to include text:
If your kids in this age group don’t need as much structure to their Gratitude Journal pages, they might enjoy being able to select a blank journal from a book retailer. They then can setup each page the way they would like.
High School and Adult
For high school age kids and adults, a simple journal, which you can get at any book retailer, works well for a Gratitude Journal. I have a simple Moleskine journal with lines. I like to make a bullet list of the things I’m grateful for. Depending on your and your high school kid’s preferences, you could also get a journal which has completely blank pages and set them up however you would like.
Using Your Gratitude Journal
The first thing to do, to setup the purpose of the Gratitude Journal, is to discuss the idea that everything God brings to us is for our good. There is nothing He brings into our lives which isn’t ultimately for our good.
So when we are writing down the things we are grateful for, we should include those items which are easy to see their good, but we should not forget to include the things which are not as easy for us to see are for our ultimate good.
Remember also there isn’t anything too small to thank God for. When I started my Gratitude Journal, before the pandemic, I felt a little silly including things such as “WIFI,” “Internet,” and “Electricity.” No longer do I take those things for granted and am so thankful for how I can stay connected to people using WIFI, the Internet and, of course, electricity to power them all. God works every small detail for our good and we should recognize this and thank Him for it all.
How Many Things Should Be Written Each Day?
Don’t make the writing in the Gratitude Journal a long ordeal. For the younger kids, drawing one or two pictures of what they are thankful is fine. For the older kids they should think of including three to four new things each day.
At the beginning, as you get used to keeping a Gratitude Journal, you can brainstorm together. This will be especially helpful if kids are having a difficult time thinking of what kinds of things they can be thankful for, after they go through the common ones (i.e. family, food, a house, friends, etc.)
Use The Gratitude Journals To Thank God
The act of simply taking time each day to write down things your thankful for is a very worthy cause but we want to take it a step further and use our Gratitude Journals to spend time in prayer explicitly thanking God.
For the younger kids, using their Gratitude Journal as part of their bedtime routine can be a great way to send them off to bed with thankfulness in their hearts. When you do their regular bedtime prayers, have them take out their Gratitude Journal, go through a few of their previous entries and thank God each one.
For the older kids and yourself, you can work your way up to spending a good amount of time thanking God. I would read about Rabbis encouraging people to spend thirty minutes to an hour thanking God. I thought that must truly be impossible! How could I focus that long? How could I think of enough things to thank God for to fill that amount of time? Little did I know, after including a few new items each day, within a few weeks I had more than enough things to fill thirty to forty minutes of thanking God.
Adding the time to use your Gratitude Journal to thank God can be done in a number of different ways:
Use your Gratitude Journal during your regular daily devotional time.
Take a walk and work your way through items in your Gratitude Journal. (This is what I do! The physical activity helps me to focus more and I end up thinking of even more things I’m thankful for while out for my walk. Like this last week, I was thankful for the bird chirping in the tree and the emergence of beautiful blue Spring flowers.)
Thank God with your kids during their bedtime prayers.
Start to include a new bedtime routine for yourself which includes going through a few entries and thank God.
While you are eating your breakfast, thank God for a few things from your Gratitude Journal to start the day.