Thanksgiving Day is almost here and it’s one of my favorite holidays. I guess that’s probably because it revolves around; family, food, and gratitude — three of my favorite things! It is really important to my husband and I, that our boys grow up to be grateful for all of the blessings that they have throughout their lives. I know that being thankful for everything they have – no matter how much or how little – will make them happier, more compassionate, well-rounded, people. In addition, having gratitude will help them through the rough patches of life.
So how does a parent go about instilling a sense of gratitude in their child? One thing you must keep in mind is children generally don’t gain a true sense of gratitude, until they are between the ages of 7-10 years old. If you haven’t noticed, little tikes tend to believe that the world revolves around them and that’s ok — it’s how they are wired. You just need to keep teaching and encouraging them and eventually it will click. Most kids learn to say “please” and “thank you” at very young ages; this is where they first start learning to express their gratitude to people.
Here are a few tips that help teach your children about gratitude:
Each and everyday set aside time where you come together as a family and say what you are thankful for. In our family, we usually do this at dinner time and it has worked very well. Our boys really look forward to this time of day. Of course we always note how thankful we are for the food we are about to enjoy, but we also like to include; our family and friends, our pets, everyone’s jobs, our home, etc.
Another thing you should – and probably already – do, is to express your thanks to your children. If your child does something without asking, be sure you let them know just how much you appreciate their help. I have been pleasantly surprised by my children when they have thanked me for things like; making dinner, finding a lost toy, or getting them a snack. Of course it doesn’t happen all the time but when it does – it warms my heart.
Also, when your children receive gifts, have them make handmade thank you notes. This really shows the gift giver just how much your child appreciates them and of course – who doesn’t love getting a handmade craft from a child? It also teaches your child the importance of acknowledging a gift.
Showing your gratitude for things other people do for you, is a great way to teach your children to be appreciative. If someone holds the door open for you, helps you with something or gives you a gift, of course you’ll want to let that person know that you are thankful, but use this as a teaching moment for your child as well. You could say “Wasn’t that nice of that lady to hold the door open for us?” or, “It was so thoughtful of Mrs. Wilkes to bring those cookies by! We should make her a thank-you card.”
Another way to express gratitude is to give to others. Be sure to include your children as much as you can when you volunteer or give to charities. Explain what you are doing and why it is important to always show you appreciate what you have, by sharing some of it with others. A few ways you can do this are:
- Donate food to a food drive, homeless shelter, or food bank. Explain to your children that some adults and children don’t have enough food to eat and need help from other people. Take them to the store with you, and let them pick out foods they would like to donate.
- When you clear out closets and toys boxes, let you kids know where you are taking the items they have out grown. Be sure they know that these items are going to other kids who need and appreciate them.
- Think about what cause is closest to your heart; then get involved in some way. Donating your time can be just as important as a monetary donation. You can donate a little time or a lot of time but whatever you do, include your children whenever possible.
- During the holidays there are a lot of “giving trees” with gift wishes for needy kids and families. If you can, have your child select a gift recipient and allow them pick out a gift. This teaches your child the importance of giving to others and makes them feel proud that they were able to help someone in need.
“Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary.” -Margaret Cousins
Thank you for reading and have a very Happy Thanksgiving!!!
What have you done to teach appreciation to your children?