Ways to Encourage Thankfulness this Week
During my everyday, there are a handful of phrases that I may as well record myself saying and play on repeat. Gems like “Put on your shoes.” and “Put your toys away.” and “Be nice to your brother/sister!” escape my lips more times than I care to think about. But the one that seems to come out the most? “Say thank you.”
People seem to do things for my kids pretty often—things like hold doors for them or offer them free stickers. I do things for them all the time. They even do things for each other. I want them to be polite, to learn the proper social graces they’ll need as adults, so I encourage them to say thank you. But encouraging our kids to say thank you is just that, it’s a lesson about social graces. Lessons about real gratitude go much deeper than those three words.
The Thanksgiving season is a great time to put the ‘thank you’ aside for a moment and start talking about deeper gratitude. Our kids are so very blessed and teaching them to sit for a moment and count all of the many good things in their lives is a great way to celebrate the season.
Here are a few ways to incorporate gratitude into your family life this holiday season:
1. Start a gratitude journal
Choose a notebook (or, to really seal the deal, buy a new one) and dedicate it to gratitude. Tell your child that it is for writing (or drawing) about things he or she is grateful for. You can set aside a certain spot of time in the day or week for her to write or tell him to open it up and grab a pen whenever something strikes him. The practice of sitting down to write, and the motivation to fill the journal, will encourage your child to think more often about his many blessings or see life through a lens of gratitude.
2. Add thankfulness to your dinner table
Dinnertime is a great time to incorporate thankfulness into your family. Everyone is there and it’s a time to catch up and talk. Start the conversation flowing by going around the table, asking each family member to share something that they are thankful for. Expect that young children might offer gratitude for the cookie they had for snack and know that that’s ok! The idea is to get into the practice of gratitude. And sometimes, if we’re honest, we adults can feel quite a bit of gratitude for a cookie too!
3. Model thankfulness beyond the ‘thank you’
We all know that thank you notes should include a little more than a simple “Thank you for the gift.” The best ones take it a step further and go into why and what: why you are grateful or what you appreciated. So apply this to your spoken thank yous. When you thank your child for clearing her plate at dinner, add the why: “Thank you for clearing your plate. I really appreciate when you help me clean up!” The more you model a deeper sense of appreciation, the more your kids will pick it up.
4. Speaking of thank you notes
Have your children help with thank you notes, or write them all on their own. Younger kids can draw a picture and/or sign their name. With a little help, slightly older kids can write the entire note themselves. Don’t worry so much about spelling or appearance if you let them do the task themselves, the recipient won’t mind doing a little deciphering but your child will learn so much from the act of sitting down to write the note.
5. Keep it going all year long
Thankfulness is very much on our minds right now but it doesn’t have to disappear once the holidays are over. Keep the journal going and keep talking about your blessings over dinner. Gratitude is an important practice all year long!