Lessons in gratitude

Children can be taught to appreciate life’s little things

It can be easy to get swept up in the hustle and bustle of daily life, especially when the holidays are on the horizon. But it’s important to slow down and acknowledge what you are grateful for, particularly when modeling this habit for children.

Here are some ways you can teach gratitude to kids of all ages

Start by showing kids they can be thankful for the little things in life. Maybe it’s their warm coat on a chilly day or the hug they got from a friend to cheer them up. You might say, “It was cold today, but you had your warm and cozy coat when you were outside. You must have been thankful for that!” In addition, remind them to say “thank you” when someone has given them something or done something nice for them.

Reframe a disappointing experience to help kids find something positive in it. My third grader recently lost her earring at school. She was sad, but a friend offered her a spare pair of earrings she kept in her locker in case of accidental loss. This small act of kindness helped my daughter appreciate her friend even more, and she now keeps her own spare pair of earrings at school.

Encourage your child to think about, write down or draw three to five things they are grateful for each day. Practicing mindfulness by intentionally listing these things allows kids to focus on the positive which allows them to feel happiness. You can even create a gratitude wall, poster, jar or tree in your home to display and easily recall all that is good in life.

Helping others is another way to express and acknowledge gratitude. Kids can make cards, write letters or draw pictures that can accompany meals or gift bags going to those in need. Those simple messages of love and connection can brighten someone’s day, and kids will feel a sense of pride knowing they have given back to their community.

Lastly, make it a priority to spend quality time with family and loved ones. Encourage kids to call their grandparents, aunts, uncles or family members regularly or send them a heartfelt letter. They can also bake cookies or make crafts to give them when they visit. Designate time at home to spend with family to promote and practice daily gratitude together. Like all skills, gratitude is not learned in one lesson, but consistent efforts to help children develop appreciation and thankfulness will help them become happier, healthier adults.

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