With the flurry of commercials and catalogues featuring shiny new toys, and Christmas music that is, yes, already playing on the radio, it’s hard for kids to think beyond the wish list. If your kid has presents on the brain 24/7, that’s OK – they are in good company. But as we prepare for all the food, family, and frantic last minute trips to the store, it’s important to remember what this season is all about – giving thanks. Navigating the holidays with the right mindset keeps everything in perspective, and makes the stress this timeframe can incite a little more manageable. While prompting ourselves to be grateful might be as easy as setting a reminder in our iPhone, cultivating the same skills in our children may seem a little more tricky during this present-centric period. But with a few simple exercises, you can help your child develop an attitude of gratitude to keep the real meaning of the season intact. In the long run, giving kids the gift of thankfulness will bring them greater joy than any present under the tree — and what’s more, you don’t even need to wrap it.
Give your kid a shout out each time they say thank you . . . even if getting those two words out of them requires a little nudge. The affirmation will let kids know they’re doing the right thing, and the positive reinforcement helps make minding those p’s and q’s a habit. If a special shout out doesn’t do it, try rewarding them with a yummy snack or few extra minutes of computer time to get the habit set in stone. (Photo from Redorbit)
It’s hard to see the sunny side when stress and overwhelm take the wheel. Whether your tiny tot is throwing a tantrum or crashing from a candy-induced sugar rush (which is not uncommon post-Halloween), remind them that the power to chill is in their hands – literally. The next time your child is in distress, ask them to take a deep breath, open their hands, and for every finger, count one thing they’re grateful for. Bringing their attention back to the positives helps put it all in perspective – and helps them practice counting, which isn’t a bad thing either. (Photo from Parent Map)
Stick To It
Sometimes all it takes to keep the attitude of gratitude is a little reminder. Take a stack of brightly colored sticky notes and ask your child to write down one thing they’re grateful for every day. Stick the notes somewhere visible – like the front of the refrigerator or their bedroom door – so that they can watch their collection of thanks grow over the next few weeks. Taking a moment each day to think of one thing that makes them grateful will remind them to give thanks for the little things – like recess and dessert – and the big things, too – like having parents as awesome as you. (Photo from OVC Well-Being)
Giving time back to the community is a great way to cultivate compassion and gratitude in kids of all ages. Try bringing the family to an animal shelter, food bank, or local charity to volunteer time and services. Helping others in need is a great way to get kids involved in the community, and doing so can help children remember to be grateful for all things great and wonderful about life. (Photo from Human Elevation)
Put It In Writing
In the digital age, receiving a handwritten thank you note is a rarity (not unlike finding that your kids have clean rooms), which is all the more reason to put the art to practice. Have your child think of someone who helped them out recently – their art teacher, their bus driver, or even the cooks in the school cafeteria. Then, break out the Crayola and construction paper and help them craft a unique card that thanks the lucky recipient for all they’ve done (a good rule of thumb is one sentence per grade level). Have your child hand-deliver the note within the next few days. Focusing their time and creativity towards being grateful helps reinforce the practice of thankfulness. (Photo from Chicago Now)
As Thanksgiving approaches, we return to family, to food, and to the small moments that become treasured, sepia-toned memories. While we prepare for the busyness of the upcoming weeks, remember to set aside some time to practice thanks. After all, teaching kids how to have an attitude of gratitude starts with you, so make time to be present and reflect on all the wonder that life has brought you thus far. Be a living example of the good habits you want your child to develop, and make the “thanks” in Thanksgiving a daily practice that extends beyond the holiday season. Above all the excitement from the newest toys and gifts, remember that giving your child the mindset they need to be grateful will bring them happiness long after the snow melts.