It’s The Perfect Time Of Year To Introduce Children To This Important Concept

The holidays are coming, and with them, many new experiences for families and time to really spend quality time together making memories.

This time of year is also full of teachable moments.

And as we approach Thanksgiving, there is one very important value we can help teach our children — and we can encourage them to practice it all year long.

American families gather together on Thanksgiving Day to share the bounty of their hard work and to pray and thank God for all He has given us.

But what does being thankful mean, especially to a young child who does not understand the concept?

Thankfulness – gratitude – is among the most important values we can share with our children.

Focusing on being grateful leads to a more positive attitude, and therefore, a happier and more productive life.

Everyday Health reports on the benefits of having a sense of gratitude:

A sense of gratitude can benefit children (and adults) in a variety of ways. It can decrease stress and has other important emotional health benefits. A person who is grateful tends to spend less time…feeling envious. It also helps people, especially children, step into someone else’s shoes…“We want our children to be able to relate to other people’s feelings and to feel a sense of belonging in their classrooms and community,” says [clinical psychologist Sheela] Raja. “Cultivating a sense of gratefulness goes a long way toward this goal.”

We all know that it is important to teach our children to say “thank you” when they are given something.

But gratitude is about more than just good manners.

And this simple phrase is more than just words.

Leading by example is always an important thing for parents and caregivers to do, and we can show our children that we appreciate all we have.

We can show appreciation in front of our children, even for the smallest things, by acknowledging when someone does something nice or unexpected within the household.

If your child cleans their room without being asked, does something nice for their sibling, or feeds the dog all on their own, it provides an opportunity to tell them that you appreciate their thoughtfulness – and a big smile and hug from you reinforces the message.

And don’t forget to tell your child “thank you” when they do something nice, just as you would expect from them.

Young children can be taught the concepts of thankfulness and gratitude during play.  How about a tea party or stuffed animal picnic where everyone does something nice for one another and practices saying “thank you?!”

Repetition and routine are vital for kids’ learning, and showing gratitude is no different.

Ask them what they are thankful for at mealtime or bedtime – every week or every day.  Make it a part of your family conversations on a regular basis.

And encourage them to do kind acts for others.  Is there a shy child at school who just can’t seem to make friends?  Your child can be the one to make a difference in their day by offering their friendship.

By putting themselves in someone else’s shoes, they learn to appreciate what they have and how to give to others.

Here’s where many of us have trouble as parents.  Is your child always asking for things at the store?  Do they compare what they have – or don’t have – to other children?

This is common for children, but by doing things like volunteering and giving to charity, they learn to share what they have with others.

And by teaching them how to save money for the things they’d like to buy, they learn the value of what they have and the hard work it takes to achieve their goals.

How about a more concrete way to teach kids gratitude and thankfulness?

This project can be done at any time through the year or used as a permanent part of your family routine – and it’s especially appropriate for Thanksgiving.

Cut out small pieces of paper and have your child write down something they are thankful for. (Younger kids can draw a small picture or tell Mom or Dad what they are grateful for that day.)

You can make a tree and cover it with paper “leaves of gratitude” or make a turkey and write on paper feathers of different colors.

Get creative with any shape or design they like.  You can change the themes of this “gratitude chart” for the seasons – paper ornaments on a tree with their gratitude messages, hearts on Valentine’s Day, flowers for spring, you name it.

Encourage friends and family to add to your gratitude chart when they come to your house, or make it a fun, new Thanksgiving Day tradition.

Above all, be patient and supportive as kids learn.  They are not always going to appreciate all the amazing things you do for them each day.

But with time, practice, and the example of those they love, they’ll soon be consciously aware of how much they have to be thankful for!

Do you have any traditions or family routines that encourage gratitude?  Leave us your thoughts.

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