Giving Children Opportunities to Show Gratitude

gratitudeNow that the Halloween decorations are put away, it’s time to start thinking about Thanksgiving. But with all the preparations required to organize traveling, host guests, and cook food, is there any time to help teach children the importance of giving thanks?

Studies have found that one of the greatest contributing factors to overall happiness is how much gratitude a person expresses. Even short-term expressions of gratitude and kindness toward others can have lasting effects on measures of happiness. So it’s worth it to help children understand and show their thankfulness.

Here are some ideas to teach children gratitude:

  • Shop and Share.  When shopping for groceries, items for your home, or toys, consider buying something to give to others. Encourage children to choose what they think others would like and want, whether it’s canned goods for a food bank, or games for a toy drive.
  • Donate.  If you’re making room for houseguests, you may need to de-clutter. Have children go through toys and clothing and decide what can be given to charity. Remember that giving an item away doesn’t mean that one will receive something in return.
  • Crafts.  Who hasn’t made a handprint turkey at some point? Use craft activities to stimulate discussions about Thanksgiving topics, such as what we’re thankful for, and who we appreciate.
  • Write Notes.  Have your son or daughter choose a person who might appreciate receiving something in the mail. Children can draw or write something, depending on their abilities, and this is an opportunity to reflect on the important people in our lives.
  • Model Thankfulness.  Make an effort to thank people in everyday situations. Regularly modeling your appreciation for small things helps to teach children that saying “thanks” isn’t just for gifts. These statements can be worked into your normal routine (e.g., “Thank you for sharing your cookies,” “thanks for putting away your toys.”).
  • Talk About Happiness. Discuss the things that make you happy, and introduce the idea of being grateful for those things. These do not have to be monumental; appreciating the beauty of nature, or the fun things from that day are worth talking about.

Of course, being grateful doesn’t stop when Thanksgiving is over. We have chances to express our thanks throughout the year. And since these ideas help others and boost our own happiness, there’s no reason to hold back.

Kellie Bouren, M.A., CCC-SLP, Speech and Language Pathologist, Children’s Speech Pathology Department, Beaumont Children’s Hospital

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