What better time than the month of Thanksgiving to explore the importance of gratitude. Being thankful can be very meaningful for children. Learning gratitude can lead to:
- Increased happiness, self-esteem, hope, empathy, optimism
- Improved relationships that are stronger, positive, more genuine
- Enhanced perspective and appreciation for what they have, where they live/go to school, who they are, etc.
Want to encourage thankfulness at home? Here are a few ways to get started:
- Have a moment each day where everyone shares one thing for which they’re thankful(such as a favorite toy, good soccer practice, call from grandma, etc.). This could be shared in conversation over a meal, drawn on a family chalkboard, or written in a journal each night.
- Limit the number of “things” you purchase your children. This doesn’t mean only provide them with the bare essentials, but be mindful of how often you buy them something they want. While we enjoy doting on our kids, too many material items (toys, games, etc.) can cause kids to lose sight of respect for their possessions. Moderation is good for everything.
- Have them write thank you notes. Handwritten notes are becoming something of the past, but it is a perfect way for kids to express gratitude. They can send cards or notes:
- After receiving gifts
- To thank teachers at the end of the school year or sports coaches at the end of the season
- For families who host sleepovers or parties
- Just because, to the mail carrier, a favorite aunt, etc.
- Say “Thank you” often.
- Set a good example and show your own gratitude every day. Thank the server at a restaurant, the cashier at the grocery store, your teacher/director at the end of a school day, your neighbors for small favors, etc.
- Tell your kids why they’re special to you! This helps boost their self-esteem without the presence of material possessions.
- Participate in volunteer and donation opportunities.Teaching kids to give back to their community is a great way to instill gratitude. By taking the time to help others in need, they are less likely to take their own health, home, possessions, and family for granted.
- Rake leaves for a neighbor, volunteer at an animal shelter or nursing home, pick up trash in your neighborhood, etc.
- The next time you’re at the grocery store, have your children pick a few canned goods to donate to a food bank, or personal care items for a shelter.
- Encourage kids to donate toys they no longer use or clothes they’ve outgrown. Remind them that some things they no longer need might be useful for another child or family. Involve them in the drop-off at your local shelter or Salvation Army.
- Be optimistic! It’s easy to see the glass as half empty sometimes, even for kids. Practice seeing the “brighter side” of an unfortunate day or situation. When kids complain,this as a teachable moment to appreciate the positives they may be overlooking. It’s all about perspective!