It’s that time of year again when you and your family begin to talk about being thankful. It seems simple to learn how to say thank you, but teaching kids what that really means and how to truly show gratitude is a little more complicated. It’s an important lesson though, as it helps your kids look beyond themselves and could make them happier in the long run. Here are a few easy ways to teach gratitude for kids, especially at the hectic holiday times.
Teach by Example
Leading by example is important, as kids are always watching and absorbing your behaviors, even when it seems like they’re completely ignoring you. Set a good example by expressing your gratitude as often as possible and not just when you think the kids are watching, but all the time so it’s natural and genuine.
Talk about Your Day
Conversing about our day is always part of the bedtime routine at my house. We talk about the good and bad moments, but no matter what, I always try to slip in some variation of “What are you thankful for today?” Sometimes we just list our favorite parts, but the idea is to get my daughter to focus on appreciating the experiences and wonder of the day.
Write a Note
I still remember my mom faithfully writing down every gift I received at a birthday party and having me write thank you cards for all of them. I’m glad she did because now whenever I do get a thank you note, I appreciate the thoughtfulness even more. In the flurry of package opening on a birthday or Christmas, my daughter sometimes gets too caught up to appreciate all that she has received. But as she takes the time to write a card, she can reflect on what she has to be thankful for.
Make a Gift List…For Others
While your tots are eyeballing all the enticing new items in the toy store, take a minute to step back from the madness and make a gift list. This isn’t a list of things they want, but instead a list of things that they’d like to give others. This is a great way to get kids thinking about the concept that it’s better to give than to receive. Help your child come up with ideas for gifts that they actually can give, such as items they can make at home.
Don’t Just Give Back, Pay It Forward
Recently we were on a family outing and decided to buy ice cream. Unfortunately the vendor only took cash, and we didn’t have enough. The salesman made my daughter’s day, however, when he offered us some for free, but asked that we pay it forward. My daughter was amazed by the generosity and has been plotting how we can repay the favor. Donating to those in need is a great way to teach kids about the importance of being thankful for what you have, but learning to give regardless of need is also a tremendous lesson.
If there’s something your child has been wanting, rather than simply buying it, help him earn it himself. Give your child the opportunity to earn some money by doing jobs around the house (not the chores he already does, but something extra). Your child will appreciate the effort it takes to be able to buy something and will likely be more grateful to have it.
Give the Gift of Experience
Shift the focus from material possessions to experiential gifts. Instead of buying a pair of ice skates, for example, take your child for a family day at the skate rink. The memories of the experience will be cherished and appreciated long after a material item would be forgotten.
Visualize Your Appreciation
Sometimes it’s helpful to teach gratitude for kids by making the concept visual. Have your child create a collage or keep a journal of drawings of what she’s most thankful for. Hang the collage on the wall, or spend time each day looking through the journal as a reminder. You can also make this a family lesson by having everyone add pictures about their gratefulness to a photo tree.
Stop and Smell the Roses
When life gets hectic, it’s difficult to appreciate some subtler gifts the world has to offer, like the beauty of nature. Slow down, and spend some quality outdoors. Go on a family hike, or even just a walk around your neighborhood. Talk about what you see with your kids and why you feel that it’s special. They will learn to be thankful for nature’s gifts when given the chance to do so.
What are some ways you’ve found successful for teaching gratitude to kids? Share your ideas with us on Twitter.
Image source: Sher Warkentin
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.