Students benefit from writing down what they are thankful for, according to studies that found a gratitude practice helped adolescents become more generous and less materialistic. Another study showed that high-school students who used gratitude journals ate healthier foods.
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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Looking for activities to entertain your kids while teaching them about gratitude this Thanksgiving? We’ve created a list of our favorites:
Thanksgiving Tree – On one side of your leaf, write what you are thankful for and on the other side, something nice you have done for someone.
Gratitude Mobile – Similar to the Thanksgiving Tree, this project helps kids express what their thankful for.
Mayflower Gratitude Boat – This is a great craft to do with kids, and it doesn’t require much in way of materials, just a paper grocery bag, tape, copier paper, scissors, a skewer and crayons.
Gratitude Rolls – These rolls put a fun “foodie” twist to expressing our gratefulness in a unique and creative way that will impact your children for years to come.
Be Thankful Garland – A decoration that displays your gratitude.
Thankful Heart Turkey – Teach your kids to be thankful with a thankful heart turkey where they can write who or what they are grateful for this year.
Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving gratitude project for kids? Share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
Surprise children with a gift. It represents something they didn’t ask for, rather than something to which they’re entitled. It also takes away having to choose between options, and helps relieve the feeling that the child could have selected something better.
Talk with your child about things that you are thankful for, including the best parts of your day. Focus on a positive attitude.
Share stories of your family history, hardships and hard work.
Encourage your child to offer help to people who appreciate it.
Teach your child to say thank you. Be a good example by always expressing your gratitude.
Show children the joy of giving to others.
Teach kids responsibility by creating age-appropriate daily chores. Have older kids help out with younger kids.
Don’t expose kids to social media and advertisements that can make them want more, while feeling they actually have less.