November is National Gratitude Month, and December is the season of giving, which makes the end of the year the perfect time to teach young children about gratitude. According to the Health Start Foundation, It is essential to instill appreciation in children every day and start reinforcing these skills at an early age to improve their social and emotional well-being.
Here are five ways to educate your child about gratitude while maintaining your serenity:
Lead by Example: Practice Daily Expressions of Gratitude
According to Dad Central, leading by example involves mindful awareness of your behavior and the emotions you express around your children. Conveying appreciation will help your children cultivate a practice naturally. Frequently use words such as:
- Thank you
- I am grateful for…
- I appreciate…
- I love my…
- I accept…
Depending on their age, your children might not fully understand the meanings of these words, but they will learn to use them organically when they want to express themselves similarly. For example, if a parent constantly complains about displeasure, such as meals at restaurants, coworkers, or sitting in traffic, kids might mimic these sentiments or label them as ‘bad’ or ‘unpleasant.’ Instead of saying what is wrong with a situation, focus on the good. For example, an alternative to ‘I hate sitting in traffic’ could be, ‘I appreciate this time I get to spend with you in the car.’
Express Thanks for Old Toys
Set aside time for a clean-up day for your children to go through their toys. Rather than discarding the items because they are ‘old’, ask them to share why they’ve appreciated them. Toys are meaningful to a person’s childhood; offering thanks teaches children to enjoy and express healthy emotions. Take your kids to a donation center and explain that their old toys will bring joy to other children.
Saying ‘Thank You’
Get your child in the habit of thanking people who help, support, and love them. If you have infants, model how to say thank you in sign language. Prompt kids to say ‘thank you’ to restaurant waiters and service workers. Tell them how hard the restaurant staff works to create an enjoyable experience. They should feel grateful for their teachers, school bus drivers, playground staff, school administrators, and those who play an essential role in their everyday lives. Encourage them to offer thanks and express appreciation to these people daily.
Volunteer with your Children
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, volunteering with your child is an interactive and hands-on way to teach them empathy for others and gratitude for their own lives. In addition, in helping those in need, your kids will develop a sense of understanding, appreciation, and thankfulness for their family, friends, food, home, and more.
Here are three fun volunteering ideas to do during the holidays:
- Have your child collect canned goods for food drives.
- Contact local churches to help serve food to those seeking a warm meal on Thanksgiving.
- Ask local hospitals if you can volunteer to pass out toys, bring care packages, write letters, or create art for hospitalized children.
Watch Cartoons that Address the Topic of Gratitude
Choose programming and television shows that educate children on the importance of gratitude. There are many cartoons on YouTube that focus on the subject, including Treetop Family. View the shows in their entirety before your child watches them to ensure their messages align with your values.