As November sweeps in, bringing with it cooler temperatures and shorter days, we turn our attention away from summer and toward the upcoming holiday season. Many of us will be privileged to spend it with family and friends, filling our tables with good food and better company. This in and of itself is cause for reflection and gratitude, isn’t it?
Although we at Mom’s Choice are intentional proponents of exercising an attitude of thankfulness every day of the year, having a physical holiday to focus on, especially for younger children, can help us zero in on the central theme of the Thanksgiving holiday. Because children learn best by doing, we’ve compiled a list of 5 ways that you can help teach your children to flex their gratitude muscles this holiday season.
Keep a Gratitude Journal.
This simple project would make a great pre-dinner activity for your family during the month of November and beyond! Family members can take turns going around the table and naming one thing they are grateful for. Writing everyone’s answers in a keepsake journal makes for a very sentimental and encouraging memento to open up throughout the years, as well.
Make a Gratitude Tree.
This craft is something simple that makes it easy for the whole family to engage in, regardless of age. For little ones who can’t write yet, parents can write for them, or have them draw on a leaf instead of writing.
We like the idea of having something physical, like a Gratitude tree, in our homes, as a tangible reminder of what we have in our lives to be grateful for. Not only that, it can help teach our children that even the small things are worthy of thanks. This tree is sure to be a great conversation starter as guests visit your home!
Be aware of the needs of others.
This could mean collectively volunteering at a local charity, dropping food off at the doorstep of a family in your community who otherwise may not be able to afford a feast, inviting your child’s college roommate over if their own family lives far away, or remembering your neighbor down the street who just lost her spouse. Whatever it looks like for you, be on the lookout for those in need. The holiday season is often the hardest time of the year for those who are struggling. Inviting others into your gratitude may just give others something to be thankful for. One of the beautiful things about thankfulness is that it so easily translates into blessing others.
Sit family members in an Appreciation Chair.
We love this unique idea! Set aside time every weekend (or more often, depending on the size of your family) this month to sit a family member in a designated Appreciation Chair, then, take turns lifting that person up. Share something unique about that person that you are grateful for, or some way that they inspire you. Having the ability to look someone in the eye and tell them why they’re special to you is a unique opportunity for both parties involved. It’s sure to leave everyone appreciative.
While these activities and crafts are excellent, the most important thing that we can do as parents to teach our children gratitude is to be their first and best model. Make it a part of your daily language to express thanks to your spouse, your children, and those around you for the ways that they enrich your life. Show contentment in your surroundings. Speak positively. Bite your tongue when you’re tempted to complain. Focusing on what you have, rather than what you lack, makes you very rich, indeed. So make it a point to dwell on these things while encouraging your children to, as well.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.