Adopted from Parents.com
Teaching kids to be thankful doesn’t involve guilt trips or lectures on the less fortunate, and the benefits will last longer than the turkey sandwiches. Grateful children may grow into happier adults, according to Christine Carter, Ph.D., author of Raising Happiness and director of the Greater Good Parents program at the University of California at Berkeley. “Pioneering social scientists think that 40 percent of our happiness comes from intentional, chosen activities throughout the day. Thankfulness is not a fixed trait. It’s a skill that can be cultivated, like kicking a soccer ball or speaking French,” Dr. Carter says. Because Thanksgiving is high season for gratitude, it’s an ideal time to talk to your children about remembering the blessings. Try these easy and interesting tips to teach your children to develop a habit of thankfulness.
- Shop, Buy, and Share – Trips to the grocery store, drugstore, or toy store can be opportunities to think of others. Next time you’re stocking up, encourage your children to pick one or two canned goods to donate to a Thanksgiving food drive or a food bank. Shelters also need donations of personal care items (soap, toothpaste, diapers) or new clothing (warm socks, jackets). Check with local shelters to see what they need, and have kids choose the supplies. They’ll learn to think of others and start to appreciate the necessities they ordinarily take for granted.
- De-clutter and Donate – Encourage your children to donate toys they no longer use or clothes they’ve outgrown. Let them know that some things they don’t need might be useful for another child. Suggest that they consider a short list of items to donate, and then bring them to a drop-off place such as the Salvation Army. Involve them in considering what they don’t want anymore so they will have new appreciation for their toys and clothes. Just remember not to force it: If they’re not ready to give something away, that’s okay.
- Volunteer your Time – Look for opportunities to volunteer as a family. Friends and neighbors may know of a group that can use the help. Serve food at nearby shelters or put together care packages for senior citizens or soldiers oversees. Show how giving time, not just money or objects, is another way of helping others and acknowledging gratitude for what you already have.
- Write Notes of Appreciation – Ask your kids to write a handwritten note to someone they’re thankful for; if kids are too young to write, have them a draw picture instead. Ask them to consider who makes their lives better or brighter. Is it the babysitter? A favorite aunt? A family friend who always remembers birthdays? When children reflect on who they want to write to, they learn to value people in their lives who have touched them.
- Appreciate Small Moments – Take time to appreciate the good things with your kids. Use travel time in the car as an opportunity to share something positive, perhaps by saying, “Look at the pretty leaves on that tree” or “Wasn’t it fun to make that drawing in class today?” These simple conversation starters encourage children to contemplate and appreciate the blessings around them.
- Keep Gratitude Going – Long after the turkey is eaten and football season ends, continue to practice thankfulness throughout the year. In the summer, donate your time when charities and food banks need extra help because regular volunteers are on vacation.
For additional tips on how kids can give thanks, visit Parents.com.
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