The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is great for inspiring kids to say what they’re thankful for – but once December hits, some children may switch into a “gimme” or “I want” mode, focusing on what gifts they want for the holidays and forgetting to appreciate what they already have. So how can we teach kids to express gratitude during the holidays and all 12 months of the year? Read on for some ideas!
There are many long-term benefits to practicing gratitude – studies of kids and teens have found that being grateful leads to a better outlook on school, greater life satisfaction, stronger GPAs, less depression and fewer feelings of envy. So, there’s no time like now to instill this good habit in your child! Here are some ways to get started:
1. Lead by example
Kids model their behavior after their parents, so the easiest way to teach gratitude is to practice it yourself. This is as simple as saying “thank you” often, and finding ways to express appreciation daily – for example, “We’re so lucky to have a good dog like Fido!” The next time your child receives a gift, sit down with him or her and write a thank you note together. “Just the act of saying out loud why he loved the gift will make him feel more grateful,” says parenting writer Barbara Lewis.
2. Find fun ways for kids to express gratitude
Encourage your children to be thankful on a regular basis by creating a family gratitude journal and using it to write down things that you and your kids are grateful for. If you’re feeling crafty, work with your kids to make a gratitude board or a thankful jar where they can save their thankful thoughts!
It’s natural for kids to write down the material things they’re grateful for, so use this as an opportunity to talk to them about the importance of appreciating intangibles. For example, says parenting blogger Jenny Witte, “If they are thankful for their Xbox that day, have them take it a step further and appreciate that whoever gave it to them wanted them to have it so they could have fun and smile.”
3. Volunteer with your kids
Providing your children with opportunities to give back is another great way to instill gratitude, whether it’s volunteering at a senior home or donating to a food drive. Talk to them about how donating your time and materials will make others happy. The one thing you don’t want to do is compare your child to someone less fortunate. “We always want to tell kids, ‘Other children would be grateful for what you have,’ but this really isn’t teaching them to be thankful, it’s more of a comparison,” says Witte. “Sometimes, it can make kids feel guilty, instead of grateful.”
The holidays are a popular time for people to volunteer, but charities need help year-round. Look for opportunities in your area at www.volunteermatch.org.
What are some other ways you can teach your kids gratitude? Let us know by leaving a comment below – we’d love to hear your ideas!