Chances are, if you’re reading this, you have a lot to be thankful for. A roof over your head. Food in your fridge. People to love and love you back. Yep. If you have even just those things, you’re doing well in life…but how do you instill that perspective of thankfulness in children?
Helping children develop a sense of gratitude and thankful nature is a priceless character trait that will follow them all through life. And as we adults know, being thankful for the little things in life will get you through some of those hard times when it’s hard to keep your chin up.
You might be surprised to know that fostering thankfulness in children is as simple as incorporating little routines into your daily family life. Here are 4 strategies I use with my daughter and students:
1. Show your own gratitude. You are your child’s superhero and he/she wants to be just like you. So foster thankful thinking in them by verbalizing your own gratitude. It can be as simple as “Wow, I am really thankful for all the green lights we are hitting on the way to school today” or “it was really helpful how you helped your sister get dressed this morning. I really appreciate it. Thank you, honey.” When you are grateful for the little things in life, your child will also start looking for those little blessings on their own….and being thankful to have them.
2. Have daily “thankful” shares. Whether it be on the drive home at the end of the day or at the dinner table as a family, take turns listing off things that you are thankful for that day. This is a wonderful way to get those little grateful wheels turning in little heads and to also remodel gratitude for the little things in life. Not to mention it will also help you be thankful on days that maybe you are struggling to find the good.
3. Read books focused on promoting gratitude. I love to use literature as a way of helping children understand and internalize concepts. Books speak to children on a level that we adults often can’t and promote wonderful conversation between your and your kids. There are many wonderful books that carry a “thankful” theme in their message. A couple of my favorites are The Thankful Book by Todd Parr and I’m Thankful Every Day by P K Hillnan.
4. Help them find the silver linings in all situations. They missed the bus for school, so that means you guys get to spend a little extra time together while you drop them off. They didn’t make the soccer team, so that just means they have more time to work on their latest hobby. They are having a hard time getting along with a good friend, so now is a good time to expand their social circles and meet new and interesting people. Silver linings can be hard to find but a really important part of having a thankful nature. Its much easier to focus on what has gone wrong rather than focusing on what good could come out of a situation. Learning to find the sliver lining is a wonderful habit and perspective to learn early in life and will help children be much more positive and thankful all through life.
Like anything we are trying to teach our children, learning to be thankful and grateful takes time to cultivate. It takes role modeling and lots of conversation on our part as parents and caregivers to help them develop a thankful perspective. However, if children can learn to have a grateful nature in their youth, they will have a wonderful foundation for becoming a positive, compassionate, and thankful person in their adult years.
Looking for ideas on being a healthy and balanced family? Check out my post on why rest & relaxation is important for children