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Monday, November 24, 2014

Thankful Family: 11 Ways to Foster Gratitude in Your Kids

Photo by BK (Flickr)

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, enticing us with the sweet aroma of pumpkin pie! Now, as always, I try my best to dedicate some time to count my blessings. Why don't we do that now, together? I'm thankful for my zany, playful life, made deliciously whole by my two daughters. They bring joy to my life each and every day, even if they drive me bonkers. After all, what parent isn't at least a dollop of bonkers?

Gratitude is a wonderful trait we can nurture in our kiddos from the moment the bless our lives. After all, a thankful heart yields more happiness, enthusiasm, and motivation! I'm not claiming that we are 100% able to meltdown-proof our children when the Elsa doll is out of stock, but gratitude for what they DO have will help them "let it go". So without further ado...

Here are 11 ways to foster gratitude in your kids!

  1. Pass the Tea, Please: Sometimes it's not that they're being rude; often, they are just genuinely too shy to whisper 'Thank you"! To ease this anxiety, practice gratitude in a playful environment. Encourage your wallflowers to say "please" and "thank you" to their favorite stuffed animals. Join in and set an example!
  2. Dine on Grace: Make it a dinnertime ritual to have each family member express one thing they are grateful for that day. To spice it up, discuss one thing everyone has learned and what they are hopeful for tomorrow.
  3. Handwritten Gratitude: Foster this habit early on. Join your precious little ones in writing/doodling handwritten 'thank you' notes. Gift them to anyone who is a positive influence on your kid's life, such as teachers, family, and bus drivers! Don't forget your partner or spouse too - after all, gratitude starts at home!
  4. Be Patient: Simply demanding that your kids be more grateful will backfire. Gently commend them when they express gratitude, but don't force them beyond their comfort zone. Living as an example will help foster a gracious mindset naturally.
  5. Volunteer: I imagine the heart like a bowl - compassionate deeds such as volunteering deepen and widen it, making it more receptive to love, gratitude, and happiness. Make helping others an active element in your family life. It lifts everybody up!
  6. Global Awareness: The vibrant tapestry of cultures in our world is something I am awed by and grateful for. Seek to cultivate a curiosity and respect for our world in your kids. This will help them appreciate experiences and knowledge over material possession. It will also provide prospective on the abundance of their lives.
  7. Tell Them Stories: Tell stories to your children, especially ones that center around gratitude. Provide both personal tales and a variety of enriching books. Even sad stories serve a purpose if you focus on the silver lining. These heartfelt narratives have a lasting impact.
  8. Thanksgiving Hunt: Why not try a gratitude scavenger hunt this Thanksgiving? Compile a list of thankful things to find, such as "someone who made me smile lots this year". Snap pictures and make an album to share next Thanksgiving.
  9. Emphasize What's Around: Want to surround your family with lush treasures? Venture into the great outdoors! I've relished in nature with my girls since they were bouncing babes. The wide open air and the kaleidoscope of sensory delights feels so whole. No object can match that feeling!
  10. Don't Take Playtime For Granted: Play makes everything feel good! It eases stress, encourages experiential learning, and builds empathy. A mind refreshed by frequent play is more apt to discover plenty to be grateful for. This applies to adults too!
  11. Be a Role Model: This is perhaps the most essential point on this list. Be a role model to your children and radiate gratitude in everything that you do. Show them (and tell them!) how grateful you are for your life, for your family, and for them! This isn't always easy, but we can all vow to TRY to count our blessings, right?

As parents, we want nothing more than happy and healthy children. Gratitude is an key ingredient to this! How have you been able to foster gratitude in your children? I'd love to hear your tips and stories in the comments below!

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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