Raising Kids To Be Grateful All Year Round
It’s finally here the week of Thanksgiving is upon us. It was President Abraham Lincoln who dedicated the last Thursday in November to a day of Thanksgiving in America. This time of year gives us a time to reflect on all that we have to be Thankful for. I truly believe we all have at least one thing we can be Thankful for but when we really examine our lives we can find so much more.
We start the month of November honoring our country’s Veterans and being thankful for their service. Xander’s school put on a spectacular Veterans Day performance this year. It was truly humbling to see all the kids recognize the sacrifices our veterans make for our country and to be truly thankful for them. While not all schools may recognize this day, I believe it is a good start to introducing our children to be thankful for much more than material things.
We simply cannot rely on the schools to teach our children the meaning of being grateful, that starts at home. About three or four years ago I read this book that talked about the power of gratitude and how it is something that does not always come natural but something that we need to be mindful of every day. I started practicing this daily and having at least one thing I write down that I am grateful for. I found this to be pretty life changing for me and I knew that this was something that I needed to instill in my son and now my daughter as well.
We teach our kids to say “thank you” and we talk about being thankful around Thanksgiving but we need to break it down more for them and to tell them why are thankful for these things. It almost becomes robotic as a kid to just say thank you. So that is why we have decided to make a conscientious effort to make sure our children know why they are thankful and how blessed they are not just for the material possessions they own but for the bigger, more important stuff in life.
We are thankful for our food because there are people in this world who are suffering without food.
We are thankful for our family because they love us and some people don’t have that love from their families.
We are thankful for school because that has been a privilege that has been denied to many in the world.
We are thankful for our health because we are alive and well.
We are thankful we have toys we enjoy because so many kids in the world who do not.
Talk About It
It’s not always easy to talk about the hard stuff to our kids. After all, we want their lives to be all sunshine and rainbows while they are kids because we know all too well how harsh the world gets as you get older. But we believe it is important to talk to our children about those in the world who are suffering and how we can help them while also being thankful for what we have. We tell our son that we will donate toys because it will make kids who don’t have toys happy or that we donate to the food drive because there are people who can’t afford to eat so they need help. It gives him a reason for why we are doing these things and also helps him recognize how lucky he is to have food on the table every night. So next time you are at the store and you donate to the stores current fundraising campaign or you drop money in the Red Kettle this holiday season, take that time to have a teachable moment for your kids.
Write About it
What I learned from the book I mentioned above is to keep a gratitude journal. You can write down the little things and the big things, it all matters! You can do the same with your kids. Have them write down things they are thankful for and not just during Thanksgiving but all throughout the year. Make it a regular activity. We plan to do this every Sunday after dinner. I also found this great idea of writing down what you are thankful for and putting it in a jar. You can find the directions to this idea on Somewhat Simple Blog.
Keeping a gratitude journal is also a good way to reflect upon the following year. Every new year brings a whole new list of things to be grateful for and it is fun to look back on the things from the year before.
Act On It
One of the very best things you can do as a parent is to be the BEST example you can be for your child. This one is obviously a no-brainer and we all truly try to do our best every day to be a good example. Our children are watching our every move and they will develop our habits (both good and bad) inherently as adults. It is vital to raising good little humans that we show our children how we can be good humans ourselves. When practicing gratitude and being thankful, why not act on it and volunteer or do something kind for another person. Maybe you can buy the person behind you at Starbucks their drink one day while your kids are with you so they can be witness to your good deed or you all can volunteer at a homeless shelter serving food.
Xander is a child of a soldier so he knows first hand that not everyone gets to spend the holidays with their families because there have been many holidays without Dad. His school also put together packages to send to our soldiers overseas this holiday season so he fully understands their sacrifice and is thankful that his Dad gets to be home with him this year. We wanted to also make him aware that other members of our community don’t get to spend holidays with their families because they have to work. We talked about the law enforcement officers, doctors, nurses, firemen and women, paramedics…etc. all whom won’t be at their families dinner tables for Thanksgiving because they are working to protect and help those in need 24/7.
We decided to do something nice for our local fire department as a way of saying “Thank You” for all that they do and to hopefully bring them a little cheer this holiday season with some delicious homemade chocolate chip cookies! Together Xander and I made the cookies and he wrote a thank you note to go along with them. We talked about being thankful and grateful all through the day.
When it came time to deliver the cookies Xander was a little nervous but excited. We were welcomed by the firemen who were SO grateful when Xander handed them the big tub of cookies we made. They then showed Xander the fire trucks and let him go inside the trucks and the ambulance (which Xander just loved)! They told us how they were working on Thanksgiving and how much they will enjoy the cookies! When we left Xander said to me ” I really liked doing that. I think I want to be a fireman!” We as adults know that it really feels good to make others happy and to show gratitude, so to see our children doing it and to hear how good it made them feel it is truly an amazing feeling!
I can only hope that as the years go by our children learn to be thankful and to practice gratitude in their everyday lives. It is a tough world out there today but if we all can start by raising good humans in our own home, imagine what the world can be!
Xander was so excited to bring the firemen the cookies we made!
The fireman gave Elise & Xander hats! I love that they gave Elise a pink one!!
I hope you all have a wonderful and blessed holiday season!