On any given day I observe our young students carry in a can of soup, or a box of cereal and place in our donation basket for our local food pantry. They are truly receiving great role modeling from their parents who support this neighborhood need. The children know they are helping some other children in families that do not have enough food. We support this great outreach every week throughout the school year. At this time of Thanksgiving when families gather in celebration and thanks, many people make a greater effort to support food pantries, clothing drives, soup kitchens, various charities and people in need. Our children are never too young to learn about being thankful and sharing kindnesses. The season of Thanksgiving provides a wonderful opportunity to develop a lifelong habit of being thankful for what one has, as well as sharing time, showing kindness, and giving from the heart.
With that in mind here are some ways to help raise grateful, kind children by Homa Tavanger author of “Growing up Global: Raising Children to Be at Home in the world.”
- Say “Thank you.” When “thank yous” are instilled in our vocabulary at home, a lifelong practice begins, even if it doesn’t stick at first. You can gently restate a sentence with polite language inserted or suggest saying “Thank you” together.
- Teach through role play. If your little one is too shy to say “thank you” in a social setting, they can pretend to teach their stuffed animals or dolls to do so, while you play along.
- Live it. Set an example and show appreciation by conveying you paid attention to real effort: “Your room looks so nice with the toys in their bins. I’m so happy that you remembered to put them away!”
- Create daily or weekly routines. A regular question, “What are you most thankful for today?” can serve as a comforting routine at bedtime or a highlight of a weekly dinner ritual.
- Make giving and volunteering a habit. Set aside toys and clothing in good condition. Deliver the items to a deserving cause together. Talk about the process and why you care. Tap into organizations like Global Giving that offer a virtual marketplace for making a difference.
- Create gratitude gift lists. Alongside a holiday or birthday gift wish list, for every item, family members can list something they are grateful for. These are the “priceless” gifts. By generating the list in a beautiful way, you demonstrate how valuable the alternate list is; it can be a keepsake for years to come.
- Be patient. Kids can’t be cajoled into showing appreciation, but your gentle efforts and examples will instill gratitude as a way of life.
Research by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley shows that “people who practice gratitude feel considerably happier (25%) than those in a control group; they are more joyful, enthusiastic, interested, and determined.”
Here’s to a happy long-lasting season of thankfulness, kindness and giving for all!
Colette B. Cross