Coaching for Gratitude

As we arrive at Thanksgiving week, messages -- often conflicting -- can flood student consciousness: "Catch up on work!" "Relax and enjoy the down time!" "Avoid procrastination!" "Focus on gratitude!" What is a break for some is a hectic challenge for others involving travel, cost, and the conflict of balancing family time with pressure to move forward on neglected coursework. Many students also face a gap between general Thanksgiving expectations -- family togetherness, love, abundance -- and the reality of personal and family challenges that may not facilitate a cozy and cheerful holiday experience.


How can coaches approach the topic of gratitude with students? Studies like this one by Jane Taylor Wilson in 2016 show that being guided to practice gratitude can improve learning outcomes and resilience. However, for students overloaded with coursework, dealing with financial strain, struggling with mental health issues, or a combination, the practice of gratitude can feel like an additional burden or another tool they cannot access. Coaches first need to tune in to students to sense what approach may bring relief rather than increasing stress.


A coach has the opportunity to ask questions that move student thinking into positive areas -- but here is the key: The coach must let the student determine what feels positive to them, rather than coming into the conversation with a pre-determined idea of what will help. For example, last week a student shared that she was grateful for a big writing assignment over the break, because it will help her limit family interaction she finds overwhelming. 

With open-ended, no-judgment questions, coaches can invite students to find and own gratitude unique to their lives:

  • What would you call a victory this week?

  • Think ahead to the end of the Thanksgiving break: What would you like to have experienced that would bring you relief?

  • What feels positive in this moment for you? 

  • If you are concerned about something right now -- school-related or family-related -- what one step can you take today that may improve the outcome?

Wishing you and your students a Thanksgiving that brings you the unique relief you need.



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