A January Message from the OCDSB’s Mental Health Team

For many families, 2022 was yet another challenging year. Many parents might look to 2023 as a fresh start, bringing hopeful goals of what they would like to accomplish as parents in the year ahead. Unfortunately, many of the goals we set for ourselves and our children can fall short, cause us to set unrealistic expectations for ourselves and others, and even become a source of discouragement or self judgment.  

This year, we encourage families to try something a little different. Instead of looking at what you want to change or what has happened in the past, try congratulating yourself and your family on what you have accomplished over the past year, and forgive yourself for the moments that were far from perfect - of which we have all had many. In addition, try to engage in hopefulness about the future through the power of gratitude.

Expressing gratitude is a simple concept that can have powerful effects. It can support both you and your child(ren) in maintaining a sense of hope and optimism. When we practice gratitude regularly, we start to intentionally notice the things in our lives that are working, and can take time to pause and to reflect on what is happening around us. 

Simply put, gratitude is the expression of thankfulness and appreciation. This is a skill - with practice, it can allow us to be open and ready to show kindness, see hope, and authentically express ourselves. This makes gratitude an important skill and mindset to have for both children and adults. As we regularly practice gratitude, we may notice that our approach to difficult situations begins to shift, helping us stay open to new ideas and  positive possibilities by noticing and naming the positive things around us.

Practicing Gratitude at Home

There are a number of meaningful ways to practice gratitude alone or as a family. Take a moment to consider how you may already use gratitude in your everyday life. How do you show appreciation for others and the things around you? What family rituals or routines do you have that provide a space to show appreciation and express thankfulness? While this may look different for each family, below are some ways to practice expressing gratitude for the family and for your child(ren). 

Daily Expressions of Gratitude: A daily expression of gratitude can be done individually or with your child(ren). Find a time that makes sense within your routine each day to contemplate and express gratitude. For example, set a time after school, at dinner time, or before bedtime to  practice gratitude each day. This can be modeled to your child(ren) and practiced together with each person taking a moment to say one thing they are grateful for today. This does not have to be big to be meaningful - notice a moment where someone smiled at you, or the sun shone on your face. Remember that appreciation can be about others, ourselves, or our lives in general.

Daily Acts of Kindness: A daily act of kindness is a small gesture towards another person done out of kindness and appreciation. These can be fun, creative, and exciting for the whole family. These acts of kindness can be done for another family member, a friend, a neighbour, a teacher, or even a stranger. This can be as simple as a thank you note for helping out with a chore or task. 

Gratitude Journal: Use a journal to keep track of the things you feel grateful for. You can use a prompt, or simply begin writing about the positive things on your mind for the day or the week. Some examples of a prompt could be: 

  • 3 things that I am grateful for this week are…
  • 1 thing I am thankful for today is…
  • Something positive from this week was…

Think about why this is meaningful for you, the more we make this a habit and engage in these reflections as a family, the more they become a natural part of our day-to-day practices.

Make kindness, self compassion, and gratitude the focus for 2023. These intentional practices will go a long way to help strengthen your own mental health, and the mental health of your child(ren).


SMHO - Expressing Gratitude
Gratitude - Psychology Today

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