Every generation tends to look at the next generation and think that the young people of today are not as polite, kind or thoughtful as they were when they were young. New research coming out of Harvard University is looking at the impact of raising children in an age of entitlement and the "selfie" culture. The research suggests that there is a drop off in expressing gratitude, and that this has some serious impacts on the well-being of young people.
The studies have shown that a general sense of gratitude has led to a reduction in anxiety and an increase in well-being. While much of the original research was on adults, the researchers are now turning their attention to young people. The pattern of results has been the same. Those who are high on gratitude have an increased ability to cope with setback and hassles, demonstrating greater levels of well-being. Kristen Welch’s book, “Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World”, explores why gratitude is important as well as how to develop it. The book is encouraging as it says it is never too late to start to cultivate gratitude. There are a number of simple things that our children can be encouraged to do: to get eye contact with those they thank; thank those who give them gifts; thank those who serve them and also thank their parents for all the ways in which they make their lives better. One of the best ways of cultivating grateful kids is to be good role models of it ourselves.
Counting one’s blessings regularly has been shown to have both psychological and social benefits. People with a grateful disposition will demonstrate thankfulness for a wider range of things in their lives. Gratitude is not a one-off 'thank you', but a continual mindful thankfulness for friends, family, health and opportunities.
Within the Christian faith, gratitude is fundamental, where believers are encouraged to give thanks. Within the Anglican tradition the two General Thanksgiving prayers capture gratitude for both the ordinary and the divine. This is embodied in the phrase “we humbly thank you for all your gifts so freely bestowed on us; for life and health and safety, for power to work and leisure to rest and all that is beautiful in creation and in the lives of people.”
I am encouraged to see that the students at St Luke's regularly demonstrate gratitude and it is our aim to continue to nurture this mindfulness in our students. By doing so we are giving to them the gift of well-being, and preparing them to take their place in the world, not as those who seek to have the world serve them, but as those who will serve others.