Ask your children what Thanksgiving is all about, and chances are their first response will be an excited “Turkey!” (with some pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes on the side.) Sadly, Thanksgiving has become somewhat of a lost holiday, sandwiched between the candy and costumes of Halloween and the lights and presents of Christmas. But Thanksgiving is a perfect time to count our blessings and focus on helping our children develop an “attitude of gratitude.”
Gratitude is defined as a feeling of thankfulness and appreciation. “Thank you” probably ranks among the first phrases you taught your children, and you keep reminding them to say thank you until, hopefully, it becomes an automatic response. Why? Not only because it is polite, but because we all want to feel appreciated. Thankful people are just more pleasant to be around.
If that isn’t enough reason to focus on developing thankfulness in your [tag-ice]children[/tag-ice], scientific studies have linked gratitude to mental and physical well-being. These studies show that grateful people report higher levels of life satisfaction, vitality, and optimism. At the same time, they feel lower levels of depression and stress.
The best thing you can do to help your children develop a thankful heart is to be a good role model. Remember to say thank you to your children, your spouse, the waitress who serves you in a restaurant, the shoe salesman who measures your feet, etc. At the dinner table, make a practice of sharing the “highs” of your day: the good things that made you smile, laugh, and feel good.
Also remember to say “thank you” to [tag-tec]God[/tag-tec]. Psalm 100:4 tells us to “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” Take time to stop and enjoy nature as the leaves fall and beautiful harvest moons decorate the night. Thank God for your health, for your children, for the many blessings in your life.
Here are some other concrete ways you can help your children practice gratitude this Thanksgiving season:
Have them make a thankful chain.
Give them strips of construction paper in fall colors and have them write something they are thankful for on each strip. Tape the strips into circles to make a chain.
A variation of this same idea is to make a “thankful tree.” Cut a tree shape and a bunch of leaves out of construction paper. Everyone writes what they are thankful for on a leaf and tapes it to the tree.
Older children might prefer to create a gratitude journal to count their blessings. You could have one journal for the whole family or separate journals for everyone. Whether you use a pretty blank book or a simple spiral, have everyone in the family write down a few things each day for which they are thankful.
Offer service to others. Children have lots of opportunities to give things to share with other people, from canned food drives at school or church to mitten trees at the shopping mall. These are great opportunities for talking about how we can help others who have less than us. But if you can, take the giving even a step further by doing some hands-on projects helping people: serve a meal at a rescue mission, buy toys for a needy family and deliver them, or take blankets to a homeless shelter. Children are concrete thinkers, and letting them actually see the difference they can make in people’s lives will not only make them grateful for what they have, but will also give them hope and a feeling of usefulness.
Write thank you cards, not just for birthday and [tag-self]Christmas[/tag-self] gifts but for acts of friendship and service. For example, if a neighbor takes care of your family dog while you are away for the weekend, write a thank-you card from the family.
Here’s hoping that this Thanksgiving season is the start of a new, year-round attitude of gratitude in your family!
At More4kids we are extermely thankful to all our customers and readers and wish everyone and their family a safe and joyous holiday.
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