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Teaching Children to Be Thankful

The fall and winter holidays are often hassled and hectic, but they can be the perfect time to incorporate valuable lessons about appreciation and thankfulness into your kids’ lives.

It is important though that your children understand to be thankful for more than gifts they are given or other material things they receive. Kids also need to develop an appreciation for the “little things” to help them develop a positive attitude that will last a lifetime.

There are simple things you can do at this time of year – and all year long - to encourage kids to appreciate and be thankful for everything life has to offer.

Be a Positive Role Model
Kids learn from what they see, so try to have a positive outlook, especially when your kids are within earshot!  If you consistently have a negative outlook, it’s likely to influence your children’s views on life in the long term.

Especially at the holidays but also throughout the year, try to carve out some time for your child or the whole family to volunteer to help those who are less fortunate. Helping out at a local shelter or food bank or volunteering to collect or deliver holiday gift donations to the poor or elderly are good ways for children to see that others may not have as much as they do and can help them appreciate their family as well as their possessions.

Talk About What You Are Thankful For
Whether at the Thanksgiving Day table, family dinner table each night or in the car on the way to school every morning, ask your children what they are thankful for today. For older children, encourage them to think broadly about the question, not just about tangible things. Maybe they are thankful for their best friend or a favorite teacher. No matter what their answer, ask for details and reasons why they are thankful. Adults should say what they are thankful for that day, too. This simple daily activity can help children develop an understanding of the many things in life we can appreciate.

Keep a Journal
Have each child start an appreciation journal. Each day, ask them to take just a few minutes to write down one or two things that they appreciated that day, at school, home or wherever they went that day. Their entries don’t have to be long narratives, even bullet points will do. For young kids, have them tell you and you can write for them or let them draw pictures or use stickers to illustrate what they appreciated that day.

No matter how you choose to help your child understand thankfulness and appreciation, your goal is not to pretend life is perfect. Everyone has a bad day once in a while, and it is healthy for children to understand that. But developing an overall positive outlook will help your child grow into a happier person who can appreciate life’s good days – and cope better with the not so good ones.



Illinois Kids First Press Center