During November, many of us will gather with family and we’ll feel thankful for our turkey dinners and our many blessings. Teachers will talk about the Pilgrims and the Native Americans and how they thanked each other for their kindness. It’s also a good time to think about how we teach our children to feel and express gratitude.
Teaching gratitude to children often starts with manners, expressed as a quick, “Say ‘thank you’ to Grandma for the juice,” or “Give Grandma a hug for the toy airplane.” A verbal thank you helps the child take his/her focus off the juice or toy for a moment and think about Grandma. Learning good manners is the first step towards appreciating not just the gift but also the giver.
One way to show them how gratitude goes beyond manners is to ask them questions and suggest other ways to show thankfulness. For example, “What could you do to make Aunt Helen know how much you liked staying at her house? Let’s think about Aunt Helen. She likes apples. How could we surprise her with an apple?” Now your child is focusing on Aunt Helen and reflecting on what makes Aunt Helen happy. Your child can contribute to her happiness and show appreciation in a more meaningful way.
In addition, we can teach our children to be grateful, not just for gifts, but for the people who love them and help them throughout the year. A fun way to practice this is to start your family’s own secret pal of the week game. Draw names once a week and do little nice things for the person you drew – maybe take out the trash for dad, draw a picture for mom, or put a sticker in your sister’s lunch. This can give children the opportunity to think about someone else and experience the excitement of giving back. Focusing on others helps children to develop empathy and understanding.
Many people go around the table sharing what they are thankful for on Thanksgiving. Consider making this a daily or weekly habit with your children, either at the dinner table or at bedtime. Ask them what one thing they are thankful for and talk a bit about why. This creates a routine of thankfulness in their lives and gives you a chance to model gratefulness when you share what you are thankful for as well.
We are grateful to all our Brookridge families and hopefully, we show it throughout the halls of Brookridge.
*image courtesy of oakleyoriginals / flickr Creative Commons