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This is a perfect time of year to teach our children aboutHappy Thanksgiving word cloud being thankful.  The Thanksgiving holiday has many opportunities to create new family traditions that will bring the real meaning of thankfulness and gratitude to a personal level for our children.  Even is the mist of extremely challenging circumstances, we can find something to be thankful for.  In addition to helping us cope with challenges, this kind of grateful attitude can be contagious and is a wonderful life lesson to share with our children.  Learning to be truly grateful can change your life. The Greater Good Science Center at University of California-Berkeley notes three key reasons to teach children to be grateful.

  • Grateful kids are more kind
  • Grateful teens are happier and get better grades
  • Grateful kids become stewards of the environment

Teaching children to be thankful helps them resist their natural urge to be self-centered and self-absorbed.  Thankfulness is an important character trait that allows young people to develop meaningful relationships with others, and is directly related to happiness.  Understanding the good things in our lives will go a long way during adversity.

Kids are never too young to start learning how to show thanks for the good things in their lives.  Although Thanksgiving, by its name alone, makes us think about giving thanks, we should teach our children by example, that being thankful and telling others how much they are appreciated should happen every day. Parents and caregivers are the main ingredient in teaching young children no matter how young or old about being grateful.  We teach with our actions more than words.  So, it will take some thoughtful planning to find time around our busy work schedules but many things can be incorporated in our day-to-day lives with very little effort.

Here are some ideas to try with your family:

A Thanksgiving Tree:  Get each child to trace their hand on a piece of paper.  Have each child write various things they are thankful for on the fingers.

The Thankful Paper Chain:  Cut strips of paper.  On each strip have the child write about something they are thankful for, such as “Grandma plays games with me” or “I have a nice teacher.”  Connect them into loops.  It would be fun to add to the chain as other holidays approach.

Giving Thanks Placemats:  The goal of this craft is to create a collage filled with pictures of all the things your children are grateful for.  Using magazine pictures or pictures from the computer, glue them on a placemat size piece of paper.  Older children could write captions.  You can even laminate it to use again and again.

A Thank You Note Project:  Teach your children to write thank you notes for presents they receive or kindnesses that are shown to them.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.

Resource:

Rothenberg, W. A., Hussong, A. M., Langley, H. A., Egerton, G. A., Halberstadt, A. G., Coffman, J. L., Mokrova, I., & Costanzo, P. R., Grateful parents raising grateful children: Niche selection and the socialization of child gratitude, Applied Developmental Science Vol. 21, Iss. 2, 2017

Written by: Kathy Green, Family & Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, green.1405@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Janet Wasko Myers, Program Assistant, Horticulture, Ohio State University Extension, Clark County, myers.31@osu.edu

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