You found your child the perfect Halloween costume, accompanied him on his quest for candy, and now that Halloween is over, the Christmas carols are piped into your local grocery store, and kids are thinking of what they might receive this year for Christmas or Hanukkah. In the middle of those two scene-stealing holidays is Thanksgiving, a day for turkey and stuffing, quickly enjoyed and then forgotten. But it’s a great time to teach your kids about gratitude, and there are a few simple ways you can encourage your kids to say thanks this year.
A Family Gratitude Jar
The simple idea of a gratitude jar can encourage kids to think about what they are grateful for, and express that thanks aloud. Find an empty mason jar, and allow your kids to decorate it. Having your children be an integral part of the project is key. Just like when they bring home a project from preschool. In fact ask your child’s teacher for creative ideas if you need inspiration. Once the jar is decorated, every day, from today until Thanksgiving, ask your kids what they feel grateful for on that particular day. Write their expressions of gratitude down on strips of paper and put each strip in the jar. On Thanksgiving, read them aloud. Getting your kids to think about what makes them thankful, and then hear the multitude of things in their lives that inspire gratitude in them, can really impact how grateful they are on a daily basis.
Donate by Decluttering
Every family goes through a similar cycle. Buy clothes for your kids. When your kids grow out of their clothes, very quickly, take those perfectly clean, intact clothes and throw them in a bin in a closet somewhere. Once you’re pretty sure you won’t be needing those clothes in the future, sit down with your kids and place the items that are in good condition into a box meant for donating to kids in need. While you’re at it, ask your kids which gently used toys they can part with. They may learn, during the process, that their many possessions are not to be taken for granted.
Encourage your kids to say “please” when they ask for something, in order to send them the message that they are not entitled to receive everything they ask for. Ask them to say “thank you” when they are given a snack, a gift, or help from someone else. This simple act of saying “thank you” reinforces the idea that every kindness is something to feel grateful for.
Get Out and Volunteer.
Many local food banks welcome kids in their storage areas, working to sort cans and produce. Some soup kitchens will allow kids to hand out meals. Even some senior centers are happy when families volunteer to play games and brighten the days of the residents. Your kids will enjoy making others happy, even if indirectly, and they will learn that the food, warmth, health, and companionship they enjoy are to be treasured.
How does your family show gratitude on Thanksgiving? Tell us about your family’s traditions in the comments section!