Like many parents, we’ve had a lot of the “I want’s” around the house recently and any “thank you’s” have had to be painfully drawn out of the kids. This got me thinking… what can I do to help my kids be more naturally and genuinely grateful? Here’s five ideas, just in time for Thanksgiving…
1. Express your gratitude.
Gratitude is contagious and sharing it helps make it grow. Although gratitude is a tricky concept for kids to grasp, they understand it when they hear it. Talk about what you’re grateful for and not just the big things. For example, if you’re digging together in the garden, express your gratefulness for earthworms. If you’re hiking together, express you gratefulness for blue sky or the rain, whatever the weather may be.
2. Schedule time to give thanks.
Designate a time for everyone to discuss their day and talk about things they are thankful for. Our family just started a new routine each night at dinner where we go around the table and each share one thing we’re grateful for. If it’s too difficult to coordinate at dinner, bedtime can be another good opportunity for this. You’ll probably be surprised by some of the things your kids are thinking about and it’s OK if what they’re thankful for is something small like the pet beta fish or their lego set – it’s all about getting in the habit of being thankful. Using Arkiver to capture these things can also be a great way to keep a record of all your family is grateful for.
3. Write thank you notes.
Our family is not great at writing thank you notes but my brother in-law’s family is amazing and we’re trying to get better. We get handwritten thank you’s from all their kids within a couple of days of their birthdays. Not only does this make us feel good (and bad because we never seem to be able to replicate the feat), the process of writing the notes helps their kids learn to express their appreciation. Thank you notes can also be written to other people in your kid’s lives like their teachers and coaches. If your kids are too young to write, they can “design” the card and dictate what to write in it. This way they control how they express their thanks and you’ll be surprised with what they come up with!
4. Educate your kids about those less fortunate.
It’s easy for kids to get caught-up in their own little bubbles and lose perspective on the things they should be grateful for. After all, they’re typically not reading the morning newspaper or watching the evening news. Talking a little about some of the conditions other kids live in around the world and selectively showing them some pictures can really change their view of their place in the world. If you’re careful in what you talk about and show them e.g. talking about the poor is rather than kids in warzones, your kids will regain perspective on all they have to be grateful for.
5. Help in your community.
Going beyond talking and actually helping those less fortunate can have a huge impact on your kids lives and will help them become more genuinely grateful. While activities could include things like serving meals at a food kitchen, there are many smaller actions you can take that will have an impact. Our kid’s school does a food drive each Thanksgiving and involving your kids in picking out the canned goods at the grocery store and physically placing them in the donation box themselves helps reinforce the concepts of gratefulness and sharing with those less fortunate. We’ve also set-up a save-spend-give system for the kid’s allowances where they have one jar for each and split their pocket money up between them. At the end of the year they choose where the money they’ve allocated in the “give” jar goes. This engages the kids in the process of thinking about people other than themselves.
Raising children that are naturally and genuinely grateful is one of the best ways we can create a brighter future for everyone. Not only do the communities around us benefit, but our kids will grow up better-off because being grateful is a key to happiness. Teaching our kids to live with an attitude of gratitude is a year-round thing but the Thanksgiving holiday is a perfect time to start. Hopefully these suggestions will help – are there any other things you do in your family?