It’s November. Leaves are crunching underfoot. Temperatures are dropping, sweater season is in full swing, and hot cider is on the stove. The trick-or-treaters have come and gone, and the store shelves are lined with ornaments, garlands, and gifts. It’s the time of year that we remind ourselves to step back and take a look at everything we have to be grateful for. It’s a season of thankfulness.
This time of year reminds us that practicing gratefulness deserves more than one month on the calendar. It’s a trait we want to carry past the holidays and into our busy, everyday lives. Similarly, parents recognize the value of instilling gratitude in their children. But how can you help your child grow this trait that sometimes seems to go against our very nature, and how can you keep it flourishing once the Thanksgiving leftovers have disappeared?
Here at our private school in Atlanta, we’re grateful for teachers who value this essential character trait and have a heart for passing it on to their students. They know that fostering attitudes of gratitude requires more than a go around the dinner table every year on Thanksgiving. Lik1e all good habits, gratefulness requires consistency and practice, and sometimes, it means you’ve got to think out of the box to help your child truly grasp its importance.
So, if you’re looking for simple and creative ways to help your child learn gratitude, here are some of our favorites:
1. Introduce It into Vocabulary Early On
“Thank you” should be one of the first things every child learns to say. But before they can speak it, they need to hear it spoken. Often. Encourage your child to practice saying “thank you” for meals when someone helps them with a task and at every other opportunity that presents itself. Thankfulness should be so ingrained in everyday vocabulary that it becomes a habit from a young age.
2. Mirror Gratitude
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Monkey see, monkey do,” and this couldn’t be more true when it comes to children. Children are like mirrors. They reflect what is shown to them. So, try to be intentional about modeling gratitude in your home as much as possible. Not only does this mean saying “thank you,” but it can also look like pointing out things you appreciate in your family members or bringing attention to little things they do.
3. Start a Gratitude Journal
Who says you can’t give gifts on Thanksgiving? This year, try giving your child a gratitude journal. Encourage them to write down one thing they’re grateful for each day. When envy, jealousy, or discontentment creep in, they can look through their journal and be reminded of everything they have to be thankful for.
4. Start a Family Tradition
One way to make gratitude a part of your family culture is to start a new tradition. Try going around the table each evening during dinner so that each person can say something they were thankful for that day. Or, make a gratitude jar and encourage each family member to jot down something they’re grateful for each day. At the end of the week, go through the jar as a family to reflect and finish the week positively.
5. Read Books About Gratitude
Although your child likely spends a lot of time reading for school, reading together at home is a great way to pass along your family’s values. Visit your local library and look for books with themes of gratitude, or poll fellow parents to find out which books they recommend.
6. Spend Time in Nature
Getting outside is a great way to relax and refocus. Go on a nature walk with your child and encourage them to point out what they love about nature. Watch a sunset just to take in the colors. Visit the beach or the river and pause to listen to the melody of crashing waves or flowing currents. Sometimes, all it takes to feel thankful is stepping out the front door.
7. Practice Sharing
Being thankful for what we have should make us want to share with those around us. Help your child to practice sharing their favorite toy with friends or siblings. Take some time together to sort through toys that no longer get played with, and take them to the local thrift store so other children can enjoy them, too.
8. Make Gratitude Crafts
Gratitude crafts are quite popular this time of year. You could trace your child’s hand, turn it into a turkey, and write something your child is thankful for on each finger, or turn fall-hued construction paper into a pile of “thankful” leaves. The internet may be lacking in gratitude crafts for the rest of the year, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Consider crafts that could incorporate thankfulness during winter, spring, and summer so that every season is a season of gratefulness.
9. Write Thank You Cards
Teach your children to go the extra mile in showing gratefulness by writing and mailing thank you cards. When friends have showered them with gifts on their birthday or relatives send Christmas presents, encourage your child to write specific, individual thank you notes to practice expressing gratitude.
10. Address Envy
Envy is an easy trap to fall into, and it can rob us of the ability to feel and show gratitude. When the jealous, green-eyed monster threatens to rear its ugly head, talk to your child about their feelings and help them focus on what they have instead of what they don’t.
11. Give Back
Giving back is one of the best ways we can help our children grow their gratitude. When we realize how much we’ve been blessed, it should make us want to bless others so they can feel the same way. Find a community program to volunteer with, spend an afternoon picking up trash in your neighborhood, or donate toys or food to a local organization.
Before the season of thanksgiving disappears as quickly as grandma’s pumpkin pie, take a moment to reflect on how you can integrate these strategies into your daily life. With a bit of creativity and mindful intentionality, you and your family can enjoy attitudes of gratitude that last all year long.