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Tuesday, November 19, 2019

7 Ways That Play Cultivates a Grateful, Optimistic Spirit in Children

Photo by ArtsyBee (pixabay)

In this season of gratitude and thanksgiving, I'd like to take the opportunity to bring some focus to what I've learned about raising children that are filled with gratitude and optimism. I believe that by cultivating these attributes in our children, we position them well to maintain a healthy outlook into their teen years and adulthood. But being grateful and thankful isn't something that children inherently understand; they need to be taught and shown thankfulness and given the opportunities to practice gratitude all year long.

Dramatic play builds understanding

Dramatic play or pretend play allows children to expand their understanding of the "other". By playing out a scene as a person other than themselves, they are challenged to experience the emotions of their character. This type of play helps children to access emotional awareness that can contribute to empathy and gratitude towards others.

Bring the focus of the day to the good

One of the principles that my house lives by is that attitude is a choice. We have the power to choose how we approach situations, both good and bad, and we can choose to have a good day and a positive experience. Making many choices throughout the day, we believe it is also important to recap the highlights of the day, focusing on the good and facilitating the opportunity for children to share the good they have experienced. This recap shines a new light on good things and can help bring attention to our good fortune.

Share your own appropriate personal experiences

When recapping the good experiences and opportunities for gratitude, it is also important to acknowledge things that you are grateful for. Children will follow the lead of their parents and by showing your own gratitude, you are encouraging them to do the same. Likewise, when the situation calls for it, sharing your past experiences of receiving kindness from others may encourage children to go out of their way to share with and care for others.

Facilitate opportunities to give back

Children learn well when they can experience first-hand how their actions impact others and help them to recognize the importance of kindness and gratitude. When teaching children about empathy and gratitude, consider offering them first-hand experiences, such as volunteer work, that would allow them to experience gratefulness on a deeper level.

Say thank you and heap praise yourself

From a young age, we teach children to say 'please' and 'thank you', but in many cases, it is more about manners than a sincere display of gratitude. Of course, manners are important, but sincerity is paramount. When you say thank you around your children, make sure that you are clear about what it is exactly, you are thankful for. Be it someone's time, skill, attention, etc. be clear and specific, rather than a blanket 'thank you'.

Gift experiences rather than material goods

Receiving gifts is certainly fun and exciting for children of all ages, but over-receiving may negatively impact a child and cause material gifts to become expected, rather than appreciated. Gifting experiences is one way to mitigate over-gifting and offers children the opportunity to enjoy an experience that lasts as a memory, adding to its unique value.

Children should contribute to the household

We've found that making chores a regular part of our children's days helps them to have a better grasp on the fact that a family is a community and it is important that we all work to make it a community we can to participate in. Chores encourage an appreciation for parents that can help shape the spouse and parent they grow up to be.

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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