It’s that time of year when kids are expecting a little something from Santa – the perfect opportunity to encourage them to feel and express gratitude.
Gratitude is much more than saying thank you. It’s something you feel – a loving and positive response acknowledging the things and people we’re lucky enough to experience. We start teaching our kids to express gratitude from an early age by encouraging please and thank you, but the understanding that comes with being
truly thankful takes a little more time to develop. So how can you encourage your kids to practise being grateful?
Regardless of the embarrassment kids like to pretend they’re feeling whenever their parents appear, they’re essentially learning how to be them (but try getting a tween to admit that!). Parents act as a blueprint for their kids,
providing examples of what to say and do in almost every situation. Include your kids when you express your gratitude – ask them to help you write a thank you letter or choose a small thank-you gift for someone who has done you a favour, or take them along when you go to thank someone in person. Modelling gratitude in this way teaches your kids that people value being thanked.
“The more grateful I am, the more beauty I see.” — Mary Davis
Research suggests young adolescents between 11 and 13 who show gratitude are happier, more optimistic, more satisfied with their school, family, community, friends, and themselves, and give more emotional support to others than their less grateful counterparts. The studies also suggest grateful teens aged 14-19 are more satisfied with their lives, use their strengths to better their community, are more engaged in their schoolwork and hobbies, attain higher marks, and are less envious, depressed and materialistic.
Explain the value of a favour
Emphasise the value of favours to your kids – the personal value, the good-hearted intentions of the people providing those favours, and the cost to those people in time, energy and money. This helps your kids think gratefully, beyond just saying thank you.
Get your kids involved in activities like volunteering, which helps them to think about others’ circumstances more deeply and become more aware of their own privilege, as well as the love and care they receive. Encourage them to donate old toys and clothes that are in good condition to those less fortunate, helping them to be more thoughtful of
others and less materialistic.
It comes with time
Don’t expect your kids to develop a deep sense of gratitude overnight. Over the years, kids begin to look back and develop a growing sense of appreciation of you and everything you do and have done for them. Gratitude comes with maturity. Until that time, you can plant the seeds of thankfulness and trust that your kids will follow your good example.
Make gratitude a habit
Develop a routine around gratitude, such as starting dinner time with each family member stating something they’re grateful for. Routines form habits, making it easier for your kids to connect with their gratitude outside the home. Vocalising gratitude every single day also helps kids grasp just how much they have to be thankful for.
Express gratitude towards your children
Tell your children when you’re grateful for something they’ve said or done, even if it’s a little thing. Follow up with specific examples of why you’re grateful to them. For instance, if they played kindly with a younger sibling you could let them know you appreciate the way they showed patience and care, and helped you by freeing up a bit of your time to do something else.
Look to the heroes
Acknowledge and talk about people who have dedicated themselves to a greater good, whether they’re well-known figures like Nelson Mandela, or people who do good every day like firefighters and social workers. Take some time with them to put their gratitude into action, by writing a letter or a poem for people who do a lot for others.
Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul — Amy Collette
A few more tips
- Encourage your kids to write about, draw or paint their favourite things and people. Ask them to express their happiness about the good things in their lives, whether it’s their family, pets, toys or friends.
- Help your kids start a gratitude journal. Each day, ask them to think of and write down at least six things
they’re grateful for, and why. This helps improve writing skills and makes kids aware of reasons they may not have previously considered.
- Make gratitude a fun craft project by collecting rocks, beach shells or other trinkets and write one word on
each that describes something you and they are grateful for. Get creative and encourage them to decorate
each trinket to theme. Place the items around the house or in their rooms so they can remind themselves of the good things in life.
FEATURE: CAITLIN GENG PHOTO: FOTOLIA.COM