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Gratitude can help parents and carers support children to learn at home

By Dr Kerry Howells*

 

Parents around the world are not only struggling with the enormous changes and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, but are also being asked to step in to help with facilitating learning at home – adding to an already stressful situation.

Parents might think that practising more gratitude here is counterintuitive or in fact a bizarre recommendation.

However, what we have learned about the power of gratitude to enhance learning – and also more broadly to improve health and wellbeing – shows that is highly relevant to meeting the challenges parents and carers are currently facing.

When we are grateful, we are open to what we receive and motivated to give back without expecting anything in return.

Gratitude has been shown to be crucial to both building and maintaining relationships. In the home situation it could generate a greater sense of interconnectedness between parents and children, and also between parents and their children’s teachers.

When students are thankful while they are thinking, they are able to learn better.

This also helps them be more engaged and attentive.

Children are likely to become more grateful as a result of what parents are doing and how they are ‘being’ with them, rather than trying to directly teach them to be grateful (which rarely works).

One of the most important roles that parents can play in this situation of learning from home is to spend some devoted time (short as it may be) to being as present as they can be with their child.

Gratitude can facilitate this presence through the parent focusing on what they are grateful for in their child and looking for ways they can express this.

An important aspect of relationship building is for parents to use this time to more fully develop their interest in the child’s interests.

When parents are genuinely grateful for what they are being shown by their child, there’s a greater sense of connection – an important foundation for creating a positive learning environment.

Parents could adopt an approach which I call A State of Preparedness, which focuses on the time before they start the lesson with their child, where they fill themselves with an awareness of things they can be grateful for.

They could be thinking about this while having a shower or preparing breakfast.

Just as a teacher’s inner attitude of gratitude has a powerful impact in the classroom, a parent’s inner attitude sets the tone of the home environment.

It is very important for parents to be nurturing themselves and being grateful for what they are able to do even in the midst of the huge challenges they are facing.

When parents are able to practise gratitude in any of the areas mentioned above, this is likely to have a positive impact on their own health and wellbeing as well.

 

*Dr Kerry Howells is a global gratitude expert. As a thought-leader, author, award-winning educator and experienced researcher, Kerry has spent more than 25 years researching, teaching and practising gratitude. Working worldwide with school leaders and teachers she has embedded gratitude into all levels of education. Recently, Kerry has also worked with coaches and elite athletes to use gratitude to improve performance.

Caption: Dr Kerry Howells.