With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it’s likely us adults are thinking about thankfulness and gratitude a little more than usual. But for kids, Thanksgiving usually means the start of endless Christmas lists to Santa, pleas for new toys at every commercial break, and dreaded shopping trips to the mall with your child begging for all things in sight. Every parent hopes to raise gracious, humble children, yet in today’s day and age, this can prove to be a difficult task. For kids, gratitude can be a hard concept to understand beyond “I’m thankful for my new Transformers.” Gratitude, like many of life’s lessons, must be taught and modeled. As we all know, things usually get easier with practice, and expressing gratitude is no different. Below are a few tips for teaching, modeling, and practicing gratitude with your kids.
And by the way, why practice gratitude? The research in positive psychology suggests there is a positive correlation between gratitude and happiness… and we all strive to be happy, right? Plus, gratitude costs nothing; so try out a few of these activities with your children:
MONKEY SEE, MONKY DO
Model a gracious attitude in your home and insist your children act in the same manner. Say “please” and “thank you” and “you’re welcome”. A little politeness can go a long way in acknowledging each other’s efforts and adopting a humble attitude. Reading stories about gratitude can also help your kiddos get excited about practicing gratitude. Check out “The Giving Tree” and “Have You Filled a Bucket Today?”
Many people keep a gratitude journal and write down what they feel thankful for on a daily basis. This is an activity you and your children can do together. Take a few moments at bedtime and write down or talk about three things you were grateful for that day and share them with one another. Be specific. For example, don’t just write “I’m thankful for my child.” Instead, write “I’m thankful for the big hug my child gave me when she got home from school.”
FOCUS ON THE SMALL STUFF
Think about and focus on the little things. If something negative happens, challenge yourself to think about it in a positive light. For example, if the car breaks down, focus on “I’m thankful I have a car,” instead of stressing over how much money it will cost to fix and the inconvenience it will cause you. Even though this may be extremely difficult to do, modeling positive thinking in adverse situations will teach your child to handle and overcome negative circumstances more effectively.
GIVE AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE
Involve your children in holiday gift giving. If you give gifts to teachers, babysitters, and others involved in your children’s lives, get your children’s opinions on what gifts to give and have them help make, wrap, and personally give these gifts. By involving your children directly in the process of gifting, they’ll experience the positive emotions associated with giving.
Check out Action For Happiness for more tips on how to practice expressing gratitude with your family.
Have a great gratitude activity? Share your comments below.