Fostering Gratitude in Your Child

Thanksgiving is coming up, but let's teach our kids to give thanks all year-round.

colored text "Thanks" on pink background
colored text "Thanks" on pink background

November 1st is coming up, and it marks the start of what many celebrate as the month of giving thanks. All across social media, you will find people of all ages sharing their 30 Days of Gratitude and 30 Days of Thanks. The idea centers around Thanksgiving, and sharing what you are grateful for each day.

For me, Thanksgiving truly is a time to reflect on, and to give thanks for, life’s bountiful gifts. Along with empathy, understanding the importance of expressing gratitude is something that you can actually teach your child, and this month of giving thanks and Thanksgiving is a wonderful time to start.

Here are some tips to help you foster gratitude in your child.

  1. Be
    what you want to see.
    Make a point to express gratitude in the presence of
    your child. Let your child hear you saying “Thank you!” to the person who
    holds open the door for you at the post office, and the grocery store
    checker. Talk about how grateful you are for clear skies on your morning
    walk together. Take your child with you to drop off a thank you gift to
    your friend. The more your child sees gratitude built into your life, the
    more likely he will be to incorporate it intrinsically into his own daily

  2. Give
    your child a gratitude journal.
    You can purchase a simple lined journal,
    or even make one from a stack of stapled blank paper. Inscribe a special
    message from you to your child in the inside cover, and help your child
    get into the practice of writing one to five things that he is grateful
    for each day. These can be simple one-word answers or full sentences, and
    be sure your child knows that there are no wrong answers.

  3. Set
    aside time to write in your gratitude journals together.
    While you are
    having your morning tea and your child is enjoying a healthy breakfast,
    sit down at the kitchen table together and simultaneously write in your
    gratitude journals. He will see the importance you place in giving thanks
    each day, and he will start to have the same respect and understanding of
    gratitude in his own life.

  4. Talk
    about it
    . I encourage each family to have family meetings once a week,
    using my empathic process. Choose a neutral space such
    as the kitchen, the heart of the home where alchemy happens, and allow
    each member to have a turn discussing specific events or concerns that
    week, without judgment. This is also a good time to express gratitude;
    ending the meeting by acknowledging something or someone to be thankful
    for helps everyone leave on a positive note, and also helps to further
    instill a sense of gratitude in your child.

  5. Help
    your child find deeper values and goals.
    Help your child think about the
    world around him, and ask him from time to time what he thinks is truly
    important in life. Encourage him to help others, even in the smallest of
    ways, and to find value in non-materialistic items. Teaching him to value
    people and goals that go beyond wealth or fame helps him feel a sense of
    gratitude for the friendships and community in his life.

In life, empathy, kindness, and gratitude go hand in hand. The earlier you help teach your child to have these qualities, the more it will become second nature to his life. Fostering a deep sense of gratitude early on can help give your child a wonderful perspective on life, one that includes giving thanks well beyond the Thanksgiving holiday.

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