10 Ways to Teach Your Kids the Importance of Gratitude
The holiday season gives us a lot to be thankful for. If you’re reading this at home, that means you have a roof over your head and Internet access. Not everyone has these essentials, which can be hard for kids to understand. When children have always had access to certain resources, they might not appreciate them as much as adults do.
With Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and other winter holidays quickly approaching, now is a great time to show your kids why gratitude is so important. Gratitude makes us feel more at peace with what we have, which helps us worry less about what we’re lacking. When we’re grateful, we also become more empathetic to those who have struggled more than we have. Empathy and appreciation are qualities that parents hope their children develop, and they have a good reason: these qualities make us better people.
Teaching children the importance of gratitude doesn’t have to be hard or annoying. This season, drive the message home with these activities and conversations about empathy, appreciation, and privilege. Your kids will hopefully start thinking more about what they can be grateful for!
- Set a Good Example
Children easily pick up habits from their parents. Whenever the opportunity presents itself, tell your kids about what you’re grateful for. Choose something simple, like how you’re glad you got a coupon in the mail. Sneaking positivity into your conversations shows your children how you’d like them to speak!
- Remind Them of their Privilege
Kids may point out people who aren’t dressed nicely, homes that aren’t as nice as theirs, or panhandlers on the street. Since this can be embarrassing as a parent, you might be tempted to scold them. Instead, remind them that not everyone has access to what they do. Telling a child that some people can’t afford nice clothes might make them grateful for their wardrobe.
- Point to Religion or Spirituality
If your family is religious or spiritual, use texts or beliefs to show why gratitude is important. You can show your children 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 in the Bible, Jewish celebrations in the face of adversity, or verse 14:7 in the Quran.
- If you’re Secular, like myself, we simply rely on the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would do unto yourself. We try reason and give our children the opportunity to give back to the community. This season we are baking cookies and delivering them to a local nursing home. Which leads me to…
- Get Them into Community Service
Community service can be fun, but it’s also educational. For example, when kids donate to a toy drive, they learn that not every family can afford to buy their own. They can also write letters to children in hospitals or veterans. If they are older, they can participate in local soup kitchens. When I lived in New York, we would get up at 3am on Christmas Day and wait in the freezing cold for a sack of presents to deliver to families in need. It was so fun and gratifying to be able to play Santa for those children, and I’m hoping my children will also get a sense of happiness from community service.
- Balance Bad Days with Gratitude
When your child is having a bad day, let them vent. Let them know that you understand how they feel. Then, invite them to name something good that happened to them that day. Hopefully, they’ll notice their mood improving. I remind them that their is always a silver lining, some days we just have to work harder to find it!
- Watch Videos Together
If your kids like watching videos, show them a news clip or TED Talk on gratitude. Find a video of someone who’s overcome difficulties talk about what they’re grateful for. Your kids might not admit it, but the videos could resonate with them! There are also some great Christmas movies out there that you can use to help get the conversation started with smaller children.
- Practice Before Bed
Before your children go to bed, ask them to name something they’re grateful for and why they’re grateful for it. The “why” portion of this conversation is important – your kids will understand how fortunate they are.
- Tell Them You’re Grateful for Them
To show your kids how great it feels to be appreciated, remind them that you’re grateful for them. This could encourage them to show more gratitude towards others.
- Have Them Express Gratitude Towards Someone Else
Bring your child to a family member, friend’s parent, teacher, or service professional to show gratitude towards them. When your child sees how much their gratitude is appreciated, they’ll want to express it more often. On Everett’s birthday, we like to get a few dozen donuts and deliver them to local firefighters. I love ways that help take the emphasis off receiving, and encourage the act of giving.
- Word it Differently
When talking about gratitude, use language that your child is more likely to understand. Try using words like “thankful” or “glad” instead.
I’m trying my best to not raise children who are spoiled brats, and though I love to shower them with fun treats, I do also strongly believe in sharing our wealth with others who aren’t as fortunate. Studies have also shown, grateful people are oftentimes happier than those who don’t count their blessings. Once your children see how much gratitude can improve their lives, they’ll likely start practicing it on their own. When they’re older, they’ll realize how grateful they are for their upbringing!