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16 Ways to Encourage Gratitude in Our Children

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Sure, we coach our kids to say thank you for a multitude of reasons, but teaching them to be truly grateful for the blessings in their lives is a much harder endeavor. Here are tips to inspire your children to be thankful—and to express it in big and small ways.
16 Ways to Encourage Gratitude in Our Children

1. Encourage your kids to create an art project depicting the people and things in their lives for which they’re grateful. They can present it to the whole family at Thanksgiving dinner.

2. Invite your children to make up a skit or song articulating what they’re grateful for. They can perform it on Thanksgiving (or any day) between dinner and dessert. Upload it to YouTube and share it with the world!

3. Over dinner one night, ask your kids to imagine their lives without certain possessions that are dear to them—and then think of how happy they are to have those items in their lives.

4. Urge older kids to volunteer at a homeless shelter, senior center, or other place where their presence and contributions will make a difference. Better yet, encourage them do it regularly and not just at the holidays.

5. Recite a daily blessing—even if you’re not religious. Before a meal, say a collective thanks to all who had a hand in bringing food to your table, from the farmers to the cook in your family—and everyone in between.

6. Teach kids to work and save up for something they want to purchase. There’s no gratitude quite like the thankfulness you have for an item that you’ve toiled and sacrificed to attain.

7. Discuss current events and the smaller world your kids observe around them. This will help them understand that there are people more and less fortunate than them, both around the world and down the block.

8. Have your kids put aside a small portion of their weekly allowance for charity. Once a year or more, help them identify a cause or organization that they feel passionate about and donate the money.

9. Spend a day (or an hour or a week—whatever seems appropriate) during which each family member, even mom and dad, chooses a toy or other object dear to them and puts it aside to experience what it’s like to be without it.

10. As part of the regular bedtime routine, ask your children to list things they are happy about and grateful for from just that day. Once a week, say at Sunday dinner, encourage all family members to discuss one thing they’re grateful for from that week.

11. Talk about what you are thankful for—not in a “big conversation” kind of way, but every day so you are consciously modeling the behavior you are hoping to instill in your kids.

12. Urge everyone in the family to keep a gratitude journal, regularly recording the people and things they’re thankful for and why. Let the little ones draw pictures.

13. Make sure your kids write thank-you notes, not just when they get gifts, but whenever someone does something helpful or special for them. Or, how about the whole family sits down once a year to write thank-you notes expressing the ways they’re grateful for each other? This could be your new Thanksgiving tradition.

14. Ask your kids to create a list of people they’d like to give a gift to just ‘cause. Then help them make time to do it, giving each person a small token of appreciation.

15. Regularly thank police officers, firefighters, and members of the military for their service. Do the same for garbage collectors and others with less glamorous—but still essential—jobs.

16. Throw a gratitude party. Over snacks and fun music, set out plenty of paper and markers and ask everyone to make signs telling or showing what they’re thankful for—one item per page. Let partygoers take their gratitude signs home to hang up around their house.

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