Social relationships are filled with moments of giving and receiving. Gratitude is an important way that these relationships stay smooth. As parents, we are continually giving to our children. Think about a time when you slaved over the stove for an hour, cooking a delicious, healthy meal, only to have your child give you that \u201cew\u201d face. Now try this same scenario, but in the end your child\u2019s face lights up, with an exclamation of \u201cMmmm, thank you, this looks yummy!\u201d Here\u2019s a reality check: research finds that children ages six and younger only say thank you about 20% of the time when receiving things. So don\u2019t take it too personally. But by the time they hit age ten, this dramatically rises to about 80% of the time, thankfully. What happens? Children start to develop cognitive empathy skills, which helps them to notice when other people are intentionally doing kind things for them. Gratitude is intimately linked with empathy. If you know several children, you won\u2019t be surprised to learn that research finds that gratitude is a personality trait. Some people are naturally more grateful, while others struggle to notice the good in their lives. But it is possible for people to become more grateful through daily practices or direct teaching about gratitude. In fact, the research shows that these exercises work even better for those who struggle the most to be grateful. Gratitude-building studies have been done on both children and adults, finding similar results. When people try to be more grateful, not only does it work (they become more grateful), but the benefits start to spill over into other areas of their lives. They start to feel happier, more optimistic, less depressed, and for children, more satisfied with school. Children who are more satisfied with school end up doing better academically, so gratitude could potentially boost students\u2019 motivation to study. Adults start to sleep better, exercise more, and feel physically healthier. Not surprisingly, since gratitude is so intimately embedded within social relationships, people start to feel closer and more connected to others, and their relationships begin to improve. These experiments also find that people are even more willing to help strangers after spending time reflecting on the things that they are grateful for. All of these outcomes can happen in as little as two weeks of practice, and the research finds that they can last up to six months. Who knows how much longer they can last, since there is limited research looking beyond six months. But pulling out gratitude as a once-a-year platter to go with the Thanksgiving turkey is probably not going to cut it. Here are some research-based practices to help increase gratitude. These work for both children and adults. 1. Counting blessings Keep a daily gratitude journal for two to three weeks. At the end of each day, write down five things that you are grateful for that day. Pay special attention to the ways that other people gave to you. Yes, there are apps for that, if you would prefer to jot things down on your phone throughout the day. 2. Gratitude letter Write a letter to someone whom you have never properly thanked. Then read the letter to that person, preferably in person. This could be an excellent Thanksgiving tradition \u2013 to pick a name of a family member out a hat and then read these letters around the table. It might seem ridiculous for those of us who struggle to pass the potatoes without conflict, but in those cases, it might be especially worth a try. 3. Gratitude lessons Research finds that this direct teaching method, which was developed by Jeffrey Froh at Hoffstra University, works well in elementary school children. It involves teaching children that when others are nice to us, they do it on purpose (good intentions), using their time, treasure, or talent (cost to others), and that it helps us (benefit to us). You can find free lesson plans on his website, or check out his book Making Grateful Kids. Gratitude is about shifting your perception. No one has a perfect life, even though it might look that way through the distant filtered lenses of social media. But everyone has something to be grateful for. One of the most powerful ways to raise grateful children is likely to be a grateful adult. Raising grateful children means raising our own gratitude levels as well. Sara Konrath, PhD, is an Assistant Professor at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. Her research has found that empathy is declining among young Americans since the late 1970s. In her current work, she is testing whether an empathy-building smartphone app can help increase teens\u2019 (ages 12-17) empathy and prosocial behavior. Email email@example.com if you live in Indianapolis and would like more information.