Teaching children about gratitude not only helps provide a solid foundation for manners; gratitude can also be a vital coping skill. Practicing gratitude has even shown useful in lowering symptoms of anxiety and depression. How can you help your children learn about appreciation? Here are eight simple ways to teach your children about gratitude.
1. Teach Your Kids to Say "Thank You"
Children who understand the concept of gratitude can respond to kind gestures and gifts authentically. Instead of reminding your child to thank grandma for the new socks, children who have a real understanding of gratitude can become more independent, showing it. Parents can remind their children how to express their appreciation appropriately.
Teach gratitude by finding exciting ways to provide thanks. Make it fun, and they're more likely to remember. Make a game of showing gratitude. Have each family member take a stack of sticky notes and place notes of appreciation whenever they see something. Each family member can have a different color of sticky notes.
2. Model Gratitude Yourself
Model behaviors you would like your child to pick up. Find appropriate moments to highlight examples of showing gratitude. Ensure adults in the home are practicing gratitude to show children how and why we give thanks. The holidays are a great time to showcase ways to model thanks.
Have children help make cards for the mail carrier and other community workers. Once children learn about gratitude, talk about it when modeling it. Ask your child, "Did you hear me thanking the mail carrier for the mail? Why do you think I thanked them?" Offering real-life examples helps children with practical information they can incorporate into their day. Children will also become more aware of other's gratitude in their daily schedules.
3. Have a Gratitude Journal
A kids journal is a great way to help children understand and document gratitude. Journals are a creative medium that all ages can use. Younger children can draw pictures of what they are grateful for while older children can write about it. Children can be provided journal writing time daily or weekly and focus on thankfulness. Children can also cut out pictures from magazines and create collages in their journals, showcasing the things they would like to give thanks.
4. Keep a Gratitude Jar
Some families use "swear jars" to help curb cussing in the home. Why not have a gratitude jar? Have children decorates these jars and place them in an area with easy access by all family members. Have some paper and pens next to the jar so family members can add something they are for which they are thankful. On particularly rough days, or at least once a week, your family can share some of the notes of gratitude and talk about what it means to them.
5. Read Books About Gratitude
Reading about gratitude is another practical way to help children learn thankfulness. Find books on gratitude they can read or have read to them. Ask teachers for suggestions. Many teachers are using mindfulness activities in the classroom which often include books around gratitude. Find ways to carry over school lessons at home. You may even be able to expand school activities for the home to focus on family and the community. Your local librarian can also direct you to books on gratitude for your child’s age group.
6. Encourage Them to Give Back
Find ways to help children give back in their communities. Children can make cookies for the local firehouse or draw pictures for a local nursing home. Families can come together to volunteer at a local food bank or the food kitchen. These activities help children feel connected to something bigger than themselves. It helps decrease alienation and nourishing connections. Children who give back regularly are more likely to show gratitude for the bare necessities, an endearing concept during the holidays.
7. Talk About it
Need a more specific activity for teaching gratitude? The Raising Grateful Children Project at UNC-Chapel Hill provides guidelines for a simple way to teach gratitude with the goal of mutual understanding. Their model has four parts to explain the process. An example could be talking about our food. A parent notes we are thankful for our food. Why do we have this food? Who makes it? Who picks the produce and readies it for the market? These are some of the ideas to get children thinking about gratitude. Here are the steps to follow.
The model includes: Notice, Think, Feel, Do. First, ask your child to notice things for which they are grateful. Second, have your child think about why they feel they have the things they do. Help them understand the purpose. Talk about who they can thank for the things they have? Lastly, talk with your child about how to show gratitude for the things they have. Help them put their thankfulness into action. Having these conversations helps your children personalize their experiences and learn how to generalize this knowledge into real-world situations.
8. Be Patient
Learning gratitude and how to express it authentically will take time. With modeling and practice, your child will learn how to show appreciation in all aspects of their life. Once you help highlight the things of which to take stock and for which to show gratitude, children will find even more. Working with your child will also help you take note of the things for which you can be grateful. Making gratitude sharing fun is another way to ensure your little one finds new ways to practice it in a meaningful way.
Showing gratitude through please and thank you is an introductory level skill all children should learn. Going deeper and helping children understand gratitude helps lead to life long practices that can help lower stress and anxiety and even help support those grieving—people who contemplate gratitude report a better sense of peace during chaotic times. Gratitude also helps us evaluate needs. During difficult times, gratitude also helps children and families refocus priorities on what matters most.
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Meet Our KeaMommy Contributor: Alexandra Eidens
Founder of Big Life Journal, an engaging resource to help kids develop a resilient growth mindset so they can face life's challenges with confidence.