This year has been stressful for children, as their worlds have turned upside down in 2020. The shutdown that occured from the pandemic has separated kids from their schools, extended families and friends. Many families have experienced job losses or have lost loved ones during this time. The ongoing anxiety about catching COVID-19 or spreading it to others has also weighed heavily on families. With all of these challenges, finding ways to teach kids gratitude is especially important this year. Thanksgiving is the perfect time to spread this message to our children.
There are many benefits of having children practice gratitude. One 2019 study found that gratitude is linked to happiness in children by age 5. Instilling gratitude in our kids at an early age can help them grow up to be happier people. Another study found that grateful children tend to to be happier, more optimistic, have greater social support, have more satisfaction with school, friends, family, and their community, and are more likely to give support to others. An abundance of research has shown the benefits of gratitude on our emotional wellbeing, and even our physical health. During trying times like these, gratitude is especially important for boosting the mental health of our children.
Here are our 8 tips for how to teach kids gratitude this Thanksgiving:
Create a Family Gratitude Project
One great way to begin instilling gratitude among our kids is to practice gratitude with them. Start a family gratitude project this year for Thanksgiving and get creative with it! You could create a gratitude tree or use a family bulletin board where everyone can pin notes of what they’re grateful for. Or you could start a gratitude jar and encourage your family members to put slips into it to read at a later time. These projects can be a great conversation starter to discuss our gratitude.
Write Thank You Notes to Teachers
Adjusting to remote learning this year has not been easy for kids or for their teachers. For this Thanksgiving, take some time to acknowledge this with your children and help them write thank you notes to your teachers or other community helpers for everything they’ve done to help them continue to learn and grow.
Model Gratitude for Your Kids
It’s one thing to stress the importance of being thankful and another thing to also practice what you preach. Despite the upcoming holiday stress, remember to still consistently say “please” and “thank you,” because these words set an example for our kids. When they hear us saying it, it will make them want to model our behavior and express their thanks too.
Encourage Your Kids to Start a Gratitude Journal
Encourage your kids to start a gratitude journal as a way for them to express what they’re thankful for. This is something that they can do on their own time, but could also share with the rest of the family if they choose to this Thanksgiving. The independent work required from journaling is a great way for kids to form their own thoughts about what they’re grateful for and document them.
Make Donations in Your Community
Many people are in need during this time, so there’s a lot of ways to give back through acts of service. You could make food donations to a local soup kitchen or drop off items to a community homeless shelter or woman’s shelter. You can get the kids actively involved in giving by having them go through their clothes or toys and choosing items they no longer need, that they could donate to a church or community establishment that’s accepting items.
Create Care Packages for Essential Workers
Essential workers have done so much for us during the pandemic. Show your kids the importance of giving back by creating care packages for essential workers. As a family, you could bake delicious treats and put them together with a thank you note to drop off at a hospital or another local establishment. For those who are still working hard throughout the Thanksgiving holiday, this gift could mean a lot.
Establish a Gratitude Ritual
Over Thanksgiving dinner, your family could start a gratitude sharing circle, where you take turns going around and sharing something that you’re thankful for. This is a simple ritual that you can implement for future family meals too. Or you could start a gratitude ritual during bedtimes by asking your child three things they’re grateful for (and sharing your daily three things too).
Ask Silver Lining Questions
Even during this difficult year, there are still silver linings we can find that we are grateful for. By talking about these silver linings, our kids will begin to see that they have a lot to be grateful for, even in their worst days. You can ask them directly, “What is something good that could come from something hard like this?” They might say something like, “I can’t play with my friends in person right now, but I’m grateful that I can help to keep them and our community safe.” Sometimes it may take some extra thought, but you’d be surprised how kids can still find bits of joy in tough situations.
There are many ways that we can teach our kids gratitude during this Thanksgiving. These lessons can easily become implemented as rituals throughout our daily lives and for years to come. By teaching our kids the importance of gratitude, even through the most difficult of times, they will grow up with more appreciation and happiness, which will make them resilient.