As we enter this holiday season and New Year, I think about how lucky we are to be living the life we have. I then wonder how I can teach my children to appreciate all they have and to be grateful every day. Studies have shown that people who are grateful are considerably happier, 25 percent or more, than those who are not grateful. This fact alone inspires me to teach an attitude of gratitude to my children. The concept of gratitude can be abstract for many children and teens. The challenge for parents is making gratitude a concrete, everyday experience.
Here are some tips to instill an attitude of gratitude in your children:
Make the practice of gratitude a habit. By this, I mean try to have a regular time when your family members are thankful for something in their lives. For many families, traditionally, saying grace or another prayer before a family meal is one way of expressing thanks. Recently, I started formally showing gratitude by stating that we are thankful for our food at mealtime. Expressing gratitude as part of the routine can be habit-forming as it reinforces the message in a continuous way.
Emphasize the use of “thank you” as an example of how to demonstrate gratitude. Communicate to your children that part of saying thank you extends beyond manners and etiquette to appreciation.
Try to find ways to expose your children to diverse cultures and life experiences. One of the greatest benefits of children seeing how other people live is that it gives them perspective and a sense of how their lives compare to others, allowing a natural appreciation to develop.
Acknowledge our veterans and other people who have given their lives and committed their service for the greater good. Do this by sending cards, thank-you notes and honoring them on days of remembrance. One exercise that children can do to help them appreciate veterans on Veterans Day is to research and learn about a veteran who fought and died and share the veteran’s story with their family as part of remembrance on that day.