November is often described as a month of gratitude and thankfulness. It seems that everyone makes an extra effort to count their blessings, whether around the Thanksgiving table or on social media. Research tells us that gratitude and thankfulness impacts us in important ways by building resiliency and giving us an overall sense of well-being. Children who practice gratitude show an improved outlook about life and may even have better outcomes at school. So, how do we develop a sense of gratitude in our children? Try some of these ideas and see if you notice any changes in your family this month!
- Model Gratitude. Make an effort to let your kids see you being thankful at home. That might be a simple as saying “thank you” to family members throughout your day, or spend time talking about what you appreciate about family members and friends.
- Make a Gratitude Jar. Give everyone a slip of paper before bed and let them name something they’re grateful for that day. Read those as a family at Thanksgiving dinner or at the end of the month over popcorn and cocoa.
- Create a Gratitude Tree. Get a limb with branches from the backyard or the craft store and cut out a bunch of paper leaves in fall colors. Throughout the month, encourage everyone to write what they’re thankful for on a leaf and add it to the tree. A Gratitude Tree would make a sweet centerpiece for your holiday table.
- Give each family member a Gratitude Journal and encourage them to write something each day that they’re thankful for. Even after November is finished, it may just be a new habit that sticks!
- Read bedtime stories about thankfulness and gratitude. Books like “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein, “Andy and the Lion” by James Daugherty and “Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?”, by Dr. Seuss are great ones to start with.
- Encourage “thank you” notes. Writing notes after a receiving a gift is fairly common, but consider writing notes to thank teachers, librarians, coaches and even the mailman, to remind your family of all of the people who impact you in a positive way.
- Research gratitude practices from your faith or cultural background. That might mean saying a prayer of thanksgiving at mealtimes or at the end of the day. Or, spend some time researching how cultures across the world say “thank you”.
- Look for ways to “give-back” in your community. You might collect pennies for your favorite charity or find a way to volunteer as a family. When you are serving, find time to talk about the value of helping others.
- Go through unused toys and clothes and donate those to local charities. Use this as an opportunity to talk about the blessing of having more than you need and sharing with others.
Whatever you decide to do to practice gratitude this month with your family, we think you’ll be “thankful” that you did!