The Wallstreet Journal
At the Branstens' modern white dining table, the family holds hands for their nightly ritual.
Arielle, 8 years old, says she's thankful for her late grandfather, Horace, and how funny he was. "I'm missing him," she says. Her third-grade pal, over for dinner, chimes in, "I'm grateful for the sausages." Leela, who works for an education nonprofit, and her attorney husband Peter, burst into smiles. The San Francisco couple couldn't have scripted this better. Appreciation for things big and small—that's why they do this.
Giving thanks is no longer just holiday fare. A field of research on gratitude in kids is emerging, and early findings indicate parents' instincts to elevate the topic are spot-on. Concrete benefits come to kids who literally count their blessings.
Gratitude works like a muscle. Take time to recognize good fortune, and feelings of appreciation can increase. Even more, those who are less grateful gain the most from a concerted effort. "Gratitude treatments are most effective in those least grateful," says Eastern Washington University psychology professor Philip Watkins.