As Thanksgiving approaches, we stop and count our blessings and realize just how much we have to be grateful for. In a world that can sometimes seem filled with turmoil and conflict, gratitude is a powerful force for good. It helps us remember that, despite our challenges, we are blessed in many ways. While it’s important to cultivate gratitude in yourself, it’s also essential to help your children learn how to be grateful. After all, gratitude is at the heart of what Thanksgiving is all about and is a powerful emotion that has the ability to change your life—and your children’s lives.
But how do you go about teaching gratitude to kids? Not only is being grateful a really abstract concept for children, but by nature, kids are pretty self-centered! Of course, this is blissfully unaware and innocent self-centeredness, but it nonetheless can make it difficult to instill the value of gratitude in kids.
“Gratitude is the single most important
ingredient to living a successful
& fulfilled life.”
-Jack Canfield (American Author & Motivational Speaker)
Gratitude has been linked with happiness, improved physical health, and increased resilience in the face of stress. Studies have shown that children who develop a sense of gratitude are more likely to be happy and successful as adults. And who wouldn’t want their children to reap the benefits of gratitude? Helping your children understand the importance of gratitude is one of the best gifts you can give them. It’s a gift that will keep on giving long after they’ve grown up and left the nest. Teaching your children how to cultivate gratitude can help them build a foundation for a lifetime of happiness and abundance. Here are eight ways to do just that:
- Lead By Example
Showing appreciation for the people and things in your life will teach your children to do the same. Point out the good things that happen to you during the day, and talk about how lucky you feel. Explain why you are grateful and let your kids see you express your gratitude in your own words and actions. Thank your spouse for making dinner, thank the grocery store clerk for bagging your groceries, and thank your child’s teacher for their hard work.
Explain to your kids why you’re expressing gratitude—for example, “I’m thankful for your help with the dishes because it means I get to spend more time with you!” Gratitude is contagious, so the more gratefulness you infuse into your family life, the more likely your children will grow up to be grateful adults, too.
- Keep a “Gratitude Journal”
Gratitude should be seen as a way of life rather than something that’s only expressed on special occasions. Each day, have your children list three things they’re grateful for. It could be something as simple as being able to go outside and play or enjoying a yummy dessert.
Not only will this help them focus on the positives in their lives, but it will also give you a chance to see what’s important to them. Over time, they’ll start to see just how much they have to be thankful for and start to develop a more positive outlook on life.
- Write Thank-You Notes
There was a time when sending a handwritten thank-you note was the only proper way to express gratitude for a gift, an act of kindness, or a gesture of support. In our digital age, however, this tradition seems to be (sadly) fading away. A handwritten thank-you note is truly a breath of fresh air in our fast-paced, impersonal world. Teach your kids the importance of writing thank-you notes to people who have helped them out or shown them kindness. Whether it’s their teacher, coach, or friend—a little thank-you can go a long way, and expressing gratitude is always appreciated.
Not only will they make the recipient feel good, but your children may also set themselves up for a lifetime of gratitude. It can teach them the importance of showing appreciation for gifts, both material and intangible. As they compose their notes, they will learn how to express their appreciation in a clear and concise way. Thank-you notes are a simple act of kindness and gratitude that can make a world of difference!
- Volunteer Together
The act of giving can be a very rewarding experience, especially when it is done with the intention of making someone else’s life a little better. When kids see firsthand how much their efforts can help others, they’ll be more likely to appreciate all they have been given.
There are many opportunities to do this, whether helping at a local food bank or soup kitchen, collecting items for a clothing drive, or spending time at a nursing home. It’s important for your kids to see first-hand that there are always people less fortunate than them and that even small acts of kindness can make a big difference in someone’s life. Volunteering is also a great way to bond as a family and teach your kids the importance of giving back. And who knows, you might just end up making some new friends along the way!
- Teach Them to Appreciate What They Already Have
In an often-materialistic world, it’s easy to forget the little things that make life meaningful. Our kids are surrounded by messages that tell them they need the latest gadget or designer label to be happy. As a result, they can easily become caught up in a cycle of wanting more and more, and never feeling satisfied. One of the best gifts you can give your children is the ability to appreciate the little blessings in life. A warm bed to sleep in at night, a tasty meal, a comfy chair to relax in, a hug from mom or dad, and the opportunity to go to school and learn—kids often go about their day without giving these things a second thought.
However, teach them to take the time to notice and appreciate the good things in life, no matter how small. In doing so, you can help instill a sense of contentment in your children that will serve them well throughout their lives. When we take the time to truly appreciate these things, it helps us to see the world in a different light. So next time you’re snuggled up in a warm bed at night reading a book to your children, take a moment to savor the moment – and share that appreciation with your kids.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll
end up having more. If you concentrate
on what you don’t have, you will
never, ever have enough.”
- Help Them Notice the Beauty All Around Them
Help your children notice the beauty in everyday moments. By taking a moment to appreciate the world around you, you can help instill a sense of wonder and gratitude in your children. For instance, instead of rushing past a flower on the way to the car, take a moment to stop and smell the roses (literally!).
Point out the beautiful colors and intricate petals, and explain how each one is unique. Or when you hear a bird singing, take a minute to close your eyes together, listen to the song, and appreciate the simplicity of the moment. This appreciation will help them find happiness and joy in everyday moments. So, the next time you find yourself feeling frazzled by your never-ending to-do list, take a few minutes to stop and smell the roses with your kids. It just might be the best thing you can do for them, and yourself!
- Share Positive Stories About People Who Have Done Good Things
Our children can develop a sense of gratitude by hearing about acts of kindness, compassion, and selflessness. For example, you could tell them about a neighbor who mowed an elderly person’s lawn, a friend who gave you a ride when your car broke down, or a teacher who went out of their way to help a struggling student. When kids learn about examples of kindness and generosity, they can start to see the good in the world. This can in turn lead to feelings of gratitude, which can help kids to be more positive and optimistic.
Gratitude helps us appreciate what we have and motivates us to do good for others. As your children grow older, they’ll be more likely to follow in the footsteps of those they admire and make a difference in the world themselves. So next time you’re looking for a bedtime story, consider sharing one that will inspire your kids to be grateful for all the good in the world.
- Teach Your Kids to Find the Silver Lining
Life is full of ups and downs, and let’s face it, it’s not always easy to stay positive. No one likes facing difficult situations, but they are a part of life. When your kids face challenges, it is so important to encourage them to find the positive in the situation. Pointing out the good in difficult situations helps them to see that even on tough days, there are always things to be thankful for. For example, if they get a bad grade on a test, you can point out that this gives them an opportunity to learn from their mistakes and do better next time. If they’re feeling left out at school, you can remind them of the special bond they share with their family members or other close friends.
By helping kids focus on the positive, you can teach them how to find the silver lining in any situation. And finding the silver lining doesn’t mean you ignore the problems or pretend they don’t exist; it just means that you choose to focus on the good even in tough times. Even on days when it feels like nothing went right, there will always be at least one thing that your child can be thankful for. Even if it’s as simple as coming home to a loving family, warm running water, food to eat, and a safe place to sleep. These blessings should never be taken lightly. When kids learn to appreciate the positive things, they will be more likely to focus on those things during tough times. This will help them to grow into more resilient, adaptable, and successful adults.
As you gather around the table for Thanksgiving, take a moment to express your gratitude and savor the moment with the people you love most! Go around the table and have each person share a few things they are thankful for. Encourage your kids to be specific and sincere in their thanks, and take the time to truly listen to what they have to say. This not only helps kids learn to express their gratitude in a genuine way, but it also gives them practice with public speaking. And when kids are asked to order their ideas by importance, it helps them learn to prioritize. Expressing gratitude is a one-of-a-kind way to build bonds and foster positive emotions within the family. Of course, there’s no reason to restrict your discussions of gratitude to just Thanksgiving dinner…everyday dinners are also a great time to encourage your kids to express their gratitude!
An Attitude of Gratitude
Helping your kids develop an attitude of gratitude will open their eyes to all the good surrounding them and fill their hearts with warmth and happiness. A grateful child is a happier child and one who is more likely to become a well-adjusted adult. Together, we can create a world of grateful kids with thankful hearts ready to face whatever life throws their way. If you’ve made it this far, we are grateful for YOU taking the time to read our blog, and we wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving!
At the Kids Guide, we believe thankful kids are happy kids. That’s why we put together this important article about gratitude to give parents the tools they need to teach their kids how to truly appreciate and understand all the good in their lives.
This post is sponsored by the Kids Guide to the Mayflower & The First Thanksgiving. For information about this product, visit https://thekidsguide.com/mayflowerfirstthanksgiving/.