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Creating a Family Culture of Gratitude - Yes Please!

Posted on November 20th, 2015

Thanksgiving is the perfect time of the year to help your children better understand the meaning of being thankful. It's important to let them know that being thankful goes well beyond manners and the politeness of "please" and "thank you." Yes, manners are important, but the need to show gratitude should be a constant focus in our lives. 

According to research by the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, "People who practice gratitude feel considerably happier (25%) than those in a control group; they are more joyful, enthusiastic, interested, and determined." Who wouldn’t want a child that exhibits all these qualities?

I hope you’re wondering how you can begin to practice gratitude with your family beyond just Thanksgiving Day and begin to achieve a family spirit of gratitude. 

Homa Tavangar, the author of Growing up Global: Raising Children to Be at Home in the World, suggests that there are certain actions we can begin to do that will help instill these qualities of gratitude in our children. 

• Live it - Set an example and show appreciation by conveying you paid attention to the real effort. For example saying, “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 - “ What are you most thankful for today?” This simple question can serve as a comforting routine at bedtime or as a highlight of a weekly dinner ritual.

• Give concrete examples - At dinner, you can play the Rose and Thorn game, where one person holds the rose and tells about one rose ( a good thing) and one thorn ( a challenging thing). A metaphor like the rose helps children develop gratitude even when things aren’t going their way. Keeping the rose in a vase all week serves as another reminder of coping with natural ups and downs. There are also some great books like The Giving TreeHave You Filled Your Bucket Today?, and Mama Panya’s Pancakes, which offer simple, yet powerful metaphors of virtues.

• Make giving and volunteering a habit - Set aside toys and clothing in good condition. Deliver the items to a deserving cause together - as a family. Talk about the process and why you care. Tap into organizations like Global Giving that offer a virtual marketplace for making a difference.

Continue to show patience, as your child can’t be cajoled into showing appreciation. Once you have decided what is right for your family, be consistent yet gentle with your efforts. Showing gratitude should come naturally and from the heart.  Remember,  "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God!” (Thessalonians 5:18). 

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and remember always to have an attitude of gratitude! 

Cynthia Burnett
Head of Preschool

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