The holidays are right around the corner, and there’s no better time to teach your children how to recognize and express true gratitude. But instilling thankfulness in young children is a difficult task, so we asked two of Floating Hospital for Children’s licensed clinical social workers, Rachel Blumberg and Victoria Newcomb, about what parents can do to nurture gratitude in their families.
Here are 5 simple ways to cultivate gratitude in your children:
Make a point to express your own gratitude throughout your daily activities. Thank specifically and let your child know exactly why you are grateful. For example, “Thank you for showing such patience when you played with your sibling today, you really made him or her smile.”
Assist someone less fortunate in your family or neighborhood, or assist through a more formal volunteer program in the community.
Express gratitude by asking each family member to take a turn to share what they are grateful for each day at dinner or bedtime. Send thank you cards to express appreciation for gifts, favors, and “just because”.
Model and reinforce “please” and “thank you”. Although the words can be automatic and aren’t always associated with a feeling of gratitude, they remind us of how often throughout our day we are giving and receiving.
Help children learn about how their favorite things came to be so that they can express gratitude for the work that goes into everyday items and activities. For example, “You love strawberries. For us to enjoy strawberries, first a seed has to go into the ground—thank you, seed!—then the sun has to shine and the rain has to fall so that the seed can grow into a plant—thank you, sun and rain!” and so on.
For older children, learn or have them teach you about the process to make something they love, and model how to notice and show gratitude for each step you learn about.