During the Thanksgiving season we are reminded to stop, take a break from our busy schedules, and reflect on the wonderful gifts around us. Family, friends, health, and home are just a few of many things to be grateful for.
While Thanksgiving is a special time, gratitude is something that should be practiced year round simply because the benefits of doing so are numerous. Studies have shown that those with gratitude have a higher ability to resist stress. It also increases overall happiness levels and life satisfaction. Andrea Reiser from the Huffington Post wrote:
"[Cultivating gratitude] can cause individuals to live happier, more satisfied lives and enjoy increased levels of self-esteem, hope, empathy and optimism."
In a world where our lives our occupied with so many activities, challenges, and thoughts, gratitude can be what grounds us.
So how do we instill this wonderful quality in our children? How can we teach them so that from a young age they too may reap the benefits of gratitude, growing up to be happier, more positive individuals?
There are a few ways to start:
- Talk about what you're grateful for. Take time out of your day to talk about the things you appreciate, and encourage your kids vocalize their gratitudes as well. This act will familiarize them with the process of pausing to appreciate what they have rather than what they don't.
- Encourage them to write Thank You notes. This task may be something that your children initially reject as a chore, but overtime it will become a habit. Instead of just receiving gifts (may they be physical or experiential), your children will be reminded to thank those who have been generous with them. This creates better relationships.
- Lead by example. Be grateful yourself. Children are visual learners. Many of their habits and dispositions are modeled after what they see their elders do. If they are consistently seeing their parents having a positive and grateful attitude towards life, they too will adopt that mindset.
- Teach them to say "Thank You" sincerely and often. These two words are truly underrated. When said they can make the people around you feel appreciated, and that's a powerful thing. Getting in this habit will encourage your kids to think of stopping and expressing gratitude first, before just taking what's given to them.
- Minimize materialism. This can be difficult, especially when you see their puppy-eyes, begging, and tears, particularly around the holidays. It is important in these moments to remember that saying "no" will benefit them in the long term, rather than satisfying their desires in the short term. When your kids don't get everything they want, their appreciation for the things they do get will grow. Not to mention that they will get over that toy they absolutely "must have", but gratitude is something they won't lose once it's instilled.
- Teach perspective. When children are saddened by something they are lacking, inspire them to consider the wonderful things they do have. This change in perspective will increase their happiness levels, and this way of thinking will follow them throughout life.
- Involve them in chores. By involving your children in chores, they will begin to appreciate how much work goes into the tasks they take for granted. Find age-appropriate chores for your little ones. While they might complain at first, chores are an important part of learning gratitude.
All in all, these little changes will make the world of difference in your children's lives. Starting this Thanksgiving holiday, let's all set a great example for our children, and show our appreciation for all that we have to be grateful for in our lives— including our little ones.
— Smart Lunches wishes you and your families a lovely Thanksgiving and holiday season.
Sources and more on teaching gratitude: