There is so many things that compete for our children’s attention that sometimes, they forget to be thankful for what they have. Today’s article will give you strategies that will help you teach your children about gratitude.
I remember my mother sometimes telling me that my eyes are bigger than my stomach. This means that I kept asking for more of the great tasting food only to find myself so stuffed later on that I couldn’t finish what was on my plate. And I find this is sometimes true with my children too. Sometimes they want more without first considering what they already have. And this happens with more than just food. Most children want the newest gadgets and toys, and of course, I want to make my children happy. But I want them to remain grateful in the process. And I’m sure you want your kids to learn the art of gratitude too. So, what better time to talk about gratefulness than during the holiday season?
The ability of children to process information, including the importance of being thankful, varies depending upon their age and developmental level. So the way that I process this concept with my nine-year-old son is different than the way I process it with my five-year-old daughter. I usually have my son write a list of things that he’s grateful for and it’s amazing how much more thankful he becomes as he reads the list aloud. My daughter is just starting to read and write, so I have her draw her “Thankful List.” She then gets to share her drawing with the rest of the family. It’s so beautiful to see how thankful she truly is as she reveals the artwork to the family.
Older children, especially kids in their teen years might benefit from spending some time volunteering for charity organizations. After spending a day in the soup kitchen or homeless shelter, they’ll surely value their own life a little more. Younger kids can get in on this action too. Although you might not want to drag your Preschooler to a homeless shelter every week, you could encourage your younger kids to help you bake cookies for a sick neighbor or ask them about donating part of their allowance to a charity. This gets them focused on the needs of others and helps them to be more thankful for what they already have.
A friend of mine absolutely always insists that her children handwrite thank you notes whenever they receive a gift from someone. Of course a verbal “Thank you” is always appropriate, but a written card drills in gratitude much more.
Another way to foster gratitude is to play a Gratitude Game. While driving in the car or taking a walk, you could start with, “I’m grateful that we have this time together. What are you grateful for?” Allow your kids to answer and then keep the game going back and forth until you reach your destination or the game naturally ends.
If you’re spiritual, staying focused on God is another way to keep kids thankful. During prayer, make sure that you teach your children that before they ask God for something that they first make sure that they thank Him for what He has already done for them and your family. Mediation, taichi walk makes the same.
Having gratitude conversations are also important. It’s easy to say that you’re grateful for something but when your children have the opportunity to explain “why” they are grateful, the gratitude goes much deeper than surface level. And of course, it’s super important for you to model gratitude. You can tell your kids to be more thankful until you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t model that characteristic yourself, then your kids will struggle in that area too. Remember, kids do what they see you do, not necessarily what they hear you say. You are your kids’ best and first teacher, so be sure to teach them gratitude through your day to day interactions.
It’s so important that we teach our children to be thankful for the things that they already have. Sure, it’s okay for them to want more from life -I mean, who doesn’t? But it’s important for them to have a sense of gratitude instilled into them early on. Not only are grateful children more pleasant overall, but a sense of gratitude also helps them develop empathy for others too. And the benefits are even noted later in life because thankful children report a higher level of happiness and life satisfaction as adults.
So let’s get started now on teaching our kids how to appreciate what they already have!