In this age of materialism and entitlement, it can be challenging for parents, educators and counselors to help facilitate gratitude in children, something that is perhaps especially important during the holidays season. Practicing gratitude is important because it trains the brain to look at the good parts in any situation, reinforcing a positive attitude as well as the resilience.
After over 20 years of counseling clients and in my experience as a mother of two teenage girls, I recommend the following tips:
- Set a positive example. Practice gratitude a part of your regular life, perhaps by giving thanks before meals, at bedtime, during a morning meditation or short prayer before going off to school, or when making toasts or at family gatherings during the holidays and year round. Constantly state that for which you are grateful, including your kids themselves, as well as their positive choices and behaviors.
- Focus on experiences rather than possessions. Consider giving gifts such as concert tickets, a fun class or a theater production that you can all enjoy together. Resist the urge to give them everything material item they desire.
- Be of service.Volunteer to give your kids the gift of perspective. Help them get outside of themselves and see the world from a greater lens by having the opportunity to help those who may be less fortunate. Allow them to feel the positive self-esteem that comes from being of service to others. Perhaps volunteer at a soup kitchen, a nursing home, church or synagogue or community organization.
- Give to charity. Have your children select a charity that is meaningful to them (perhaps something that helps animals or the environment) and give to that charity in their name. Even consider matching or doubling what they give themselves.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Consider using an app such as Grateful: A Gratitude Journalor create a social media gratitude group or text message group thread for daily postings.
- Encouraging them to focus on their giving. Rather than focusing only on their wish list, encourage them to be thoughtful about what they would like to give to others. Encourage them to make gifts themselves. Allow them to take ownership in selecting and wrapping gifts from them, rather than doing it for them. This will help them feel the heart-warming feelings that come from giving.
- Set an intention for the holidays that sets the tone. As a family, discuss the intention of the holiday celebrations. Perhaps it is to enjoy your connection with one another, reflect on the deeper meaning of the time of year, or use it as an opportunity to rest and reboot before the New Year. Continue this positivity by making a vision board as a family for the New Year!
Whichever activities you select to promote gratitude, talk about them together as a family. Use the season as an opportunity to promote gratitude and watch your children and family blossom!