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Teaching Kids Gratitude

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

Thanksgiving Day is often when families get together to enjoy enormous portions of food and spend time reconnecting. It can also be a time for reflection and gratitude. But why limit giving thanks to just one day out of the year?

It’s pretty hard to get through a day without hearing or reading about some negative or depressing situation. There’s so much frustration, anger and rudeness being expressed that it sometimes seems that everything is spiraling out of control. But it isn’t.

When you step away from the chaos and focus on the good around you, it becomes very apparent that our lives are filled with many blessings.

Thanksgiving is a very special American holiday, but it’s only one in 365 other days for giving thanks.

Robert Emmons at the University of California Davis, conducted a long-term study on gratitude and discovered that the benefits of a grateful attitude include, among other things: higher levels of optimism and life satisfaction; more generosity and helpfulness towards others; and less of a focus on material goods. In addition, he found that children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families.

Other studies have shown that kids who keep a gratitude journal and write in it 30 minutes before bedtime, sleep better.

Gratitude, giving thanks, thoughtfulness, kindness, positive thinking, mindfulness, grateful thinking, the glass is half full … whatever you want to call it- it’s all good.

Gratitude is simply giving thanks for what we have, for what we have learned and experienced, for those that have touched out lives, and an appreciation for the things that bind us together instead of tear us apart.

Teaching your child gratitude at an early age may help provide them with a more positive outlook for the rest of their lives.

Jeana Lee Tahnk (HuffPost Healthy Living) spoke with Dr, Caron B. Goode, co-founder of the Academy for Coaching Parents International, about ways for parents and caregivers to teach and practice thankfulness with their child. Goode offered these tips for parents and caregivers:

1) Daily Dose: Take time each day to encourage your children to express gratitude. They can do this by making an entry in a family journal or by simply talking about what they are grateful for.

2) Model Thanks: As with everything, modeling is the best way to teach your children to be grateful. Be lavish with your thanks. Thank your children for hugs. Thank the cashier for ringing up your groceries. Thank the bus driver for returning your students home safely. Letting your children see that you are grateful will encourage them to be so as well.

3) Establish Rituals: We all know the importance of family rituals. Establishing rituals that highlight being thankful is a wonderful teaching tool. Start dinner with each family member sharing what they are most grateful for. Say goodnight by sharing what you were thankful for that day. Any ritual that based on gratitude will reinforce its power.

4) Volunteer: Volunteering is a great way for your children to see gratitude in action. There are numerous chances in every community to volunteer. Homeless shelters, nursing homes, and mentoring programs are just a few. There may also be other opportunities closer to home. Perhaps an elderly relative or neighbor could use a hand. It feels good to help others. Therefore, your children not only benefit from that, but they also get to experience the warmth of appreciation. Two things for which they can be grateful.

5) Assign Chores: Children learn by doing chores. They learn what it means to be part of a whole. They learn their contributions are important. They also learn that most things take effort. Simple household chores can help children learn to be grateful when they benefit from the efforts of others.

6) Thank You Notes: Writing thank you notes for gifts is a very literal way of teaching your children gratitude. Putting down on paper what they enjoyed about a particular gift, reminds your children why they are grateful for it.

7) Find Your Gratitude: Always be on the lookout for things to be grateful for and express your gratitude. When your children hear you say things like, “Buster is such a good dog” or “What a beautiful day”, they realize they can be grateful for even the smallest of things.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” John Kennedy.

Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you for being a part of The Kid’s Dr. family!

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