November is the time when most families reflect on all the things they are thankful for—good health, a place to call home, and the loved ones they break bread with. As we age, gratitude becomes easier to understand and appreciate because we better understand what it is to go without, and life has given us enough rain to allow us to marvel at rainbows. For young children, however, gratitude is not always inherent. Are your children thankful for what they do have? Sure, they are! But most children who are well cared for have their needs met by others and have rarely had to go without. It can be difficult for you, as the parent, to ride the line between offering a good life and spoiling. Not to fret, gratitude can be instilled without having to withhold from your child or prematurely expose them to the ugliness of the world. Join us in today’s post as we discuss a few things you can do to help your children learn gratefulness.
Celebrate Giving to Others
For most parents, when a child ages out of a size of clothing or old toys, it is a time of silent purging. We often collect up the things we no longer need and sell them in a garage sale or online marketplace, throw things away, or donate them to thrift stores without our children ever knowing. Instead of this behind the scenes clearance, next time include your kids and make a big production of it. Announce that “it’s time to clear out old toys we no longer play with and clothes that don’t fit, and we are going to give them to someone else who needs them (or sell them and we can use the money to buy something we do need).” Then, have your kids help you pack up those toys and clothes they no longer need. If they hesitate, remind them that they already have something to replace it. Or say “you know how happy this made you when you were younger? Now that you are older, we can make another little kid just as happy as it used to make you!” Once everything is cleared out, take your kids along with you to the donation center or otherwise. Then, when everything is gone, do something small but special, like get ice cream and reflect about how happy your discarded things will make someone else. Praise them for a job well done. Not only will this help your children appreciate what they have but it will show the importance of doing things that make others grateful as well.
Spend Meals Together Discussing Gratitude
For many American families, the hustle and bustle of work, school, and daycare keeps members apart for most of the day. Dinner time, or sometimes breakfast, is the only time the whole family can be together. Most people discuss the next day’s plans and what they did the current day. Add to your agenda everyone sharing one good thing that happened that day and one thing they are grateful for. This not only offers the opportunity to share the things they are thankful for, but to search them out during the day to have something to share. Over time, your children will become more aware of their thanks.
Express Your Gratitude
Children learn best by example. There simply is no substitute for leading by example when teaching children. Be sure to express your own gratitude, and express it often. Say thank you, offer positive feedback to those who offer goods and services. Never let a favor or act of kindness go unthanked. Avoid being demanding or ungrateful to servers. When your children see and hear gratitude, they will learn to be more grateful and share their thanks.
In a time of so much uncertainty, your family’s lives surely changed this year. From disappointment to developing new normals and the stress of the unknown coupled with the fear of right now, your gratitude may have waned. This year, more than any, no matter what your situation looks like, give thanks. Amidst the video chats with extended family you’d normally share a table with, on the commercial break from the Bears game, take some time to express thanks for what you have and who you’re with. In the face of the greatest triumphs of our time, there is no better time than now to express gratitude with your children.
At Darlene’s Wee Care 4 Kids daycare serving Upper Darby, we express thanks for your children and each other often. Manners are a part of the curriculum at our child care center in an effort to build the total child. Gratitude is important for social development as well as emotional wellbeing of all children (and adults). To learn more about our early childhood education programs, visit us online or call our friendly staff directly. We are grateful for your consideration and look forward to speaking with you soon!