Gratitude, Attitude and Mental Health, Melissa Manza, LICSW

Melissa Manza, LICSW, Director of Perkins Behavioral Health

As parents we all want our kids to be happy. Probably one of the best ways to foster happiness is to encourage conversation at an early age and continue with that conversation for as long as our children live under our roof. One way to do this is to take a moment to reflect with your family on their “favorite part” of each day.

It takes less time than brushing your teeth or changing a diaper. It can be done at the dinner table, in the car on the way to softball practice, when homework is done before the TV goes on, at bedtime. Ask each member of your family, “What was the best thing that happened to you today?” and share your favorite moment in return.
You might be surprised at what your children tell you. You might have the same “favorite moment.” It could be something big, like a trip to the aquarium, or something you didn’t think they even noticed, like a morning hug or reading a beloved book at bedtime. What it teaches children is gratitude, optimism, and appreciation for how others experience the world. What it shows us is that our children notice and appreciate more than we realize.

It is just as much an exercise for us as adults. Because somewhere between that dentist appointment, dropping the forgotten lunch off at school, two trips to the pharmacy and a battle over homework, you and your ‘tween belted out Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” in the car together. Your three-year-old used the potty successfully. Your boss sent you a much-needed email about the hard work you do. Sometimes we have to reach to find our “favorite moment,” but it’s worth reaching for, because it forces us to reflect, be mindful, and remember that there is always something good happening in our lives.

Children who know their parents are interested in their day-to-day lives function better overall and are more likely to go to their parents when problems arise. Taking a moment for gratitude invites conversation, shifts perspective, and cultivates a positive outlook, all powerful tools in improving mental health, gauging how our children are functioning, and learning about one another in new, appreciative ways.