Did you know that gratitude is more of a learned trait than an innate one?
Let’s all take a sigh of relief!
That means the tantrums, occasional failure to recognize something special, or forgetting to say thank you doesn’t automatically mean you are raising an entitled kid. Developmentally, young children tend to be self-centered at their core. Often, they don’t intend to appear unappreciative or ungrateful. Early on, they simply do not understand or know any better. As parents, it is our job to teach them the art of gratitude and the value in what they have so they can transition from that self-centered place to one of empathy and compassion.
As we approach this season of Thanksgiving, here are some ideas to help you celebrate the season and facilitate the practice of gratitude.
- Help your children write thank you cards expressing why they are thankful for people in their lives (e.g. teachers, grandparents, public safety workers, neighbors)
- Make a gratitude tree. Each day before Thanksgiving, write something you are grateful for on a leaf and add it to the tree.
- Participate in acts of service. Find a way to give back that means something to your family.
- Ask your kids draw pictures of the things they appreciate the most in their lives.
- Create an ABC’s of Thanksgiving journal. For each letter of the alphabet, encourage your child to draw or write about something they are grateful for.
- On Thanksgiving Day, kick off the meal by having each guest say what he or she has been thankful for over the past year.
- This holiday season have your kids write a giving list. The list can include gifts they would like to make or buy for others.
Gratitude is developed by regularly modeling the practice. Although it is a very important part of the holiday season, developing regular practices that acknowledge what we are thankful for is important in teaching children compassion, appreciation, and the gift of giving to others.
Here are some ways you can make gratitude a part of your family’s daily routine:
- As you sit around the dinner table, reflect on what you are grateful for each day.
- As parents, we can model gratitude. Kids learn best by seeing what we do! Make a point to thank the people around you and verbalize your appreciation for others and the things you value (big and small!)
- Engage in your own acts of service.
- See the glass as half full! Rather than talking about the things you “have to do” make a point to discuss the things you “get to do” Small shifts in how we communicate send powerful messages!
Gratitude not only makes us kinder and more compassionate people, it also makes us happier! Did you know grateful people have more empathy, feel less stressed and have higher levels of self-esteem? What are some ways you have taught your kids to acknowledge and express their gratitude?