Gratefulness is an emotion – it is not something we can force our children to experience. While we can’t make a child appreciate something, we can encourage them to say “thank you” and provide teachable moments about being appreciative and grateful.
By practicing the following behaviors with your children and modeling them, you can help equip your kids to better understand what being grateful truly means.
Stirring up gratitude with your kids
Gratitude is highly correlated with happiness and life satisfaction. It makes us feel good when we look at the good things in our lives. Help your children to think gratefully and coach them on practicing gratitude.
1. Ask questions that make your kids think positively.
I used to ask my kids how their day was when they got home from school. However, I noticed that they would often only tell me negative things about their day. I now ask them, “What was the best part of your day?” This forces them to look for the highlights that were previously overlooked. The more we look for positives in our lives, they more we find!
2. Identify Feelings.
Help children recognize the feeling of appreciation when a person is kind to them and express it. Practice noticing and verbalizing positive feelings.
3. Read books.
Read children’s literature or other materials with a gratitude theme together as a way to remind your children of what they should be thankful for during the holidays and all year round.
4. Model gratitude.
Don’t forget to practice gratitude. Our children learn by modeling their behavior after our own. Let them see and hear you be positive and grateful to other people – family, friends, strangers. All can be great teaching moments.
5. Volunteer with your children.
Taking time to serve others helps children understand and appreciate the blessings in their own lives. Making lunch bags for Kids Food Basket, shopping for back-to-school items for children who can’t afford them, making and taking a meal to a family in need and other volunteer experiences generate positive feelings and social connectedness which may inspire a lifetime of gratitude.
Leslie Visser, MA is a limited licensed psychologist at the Pine Rest Caledonia Clinic. She received her undergraduate degree from Calvin College and her Masters degree in Psychology from Western Michigan University. Leslie enjoys working with children, adults and families. Her areas of expertise include parenting, anxiety, depression, divorce and blended families.