Grateful people aren’t just happier people; they’re the ones who make the world a better place.
Have you ever thought that maybe what makes the holiday season so special is that families and friends and neighbors and strangers all come together and act on those feelings of gratitude?
If you have a desire to serve or simply want to teach your children the significance and purpose of the season, here are a few ways to go a bit further this year:
Count Your Blessings
Set a goal. Do you think you can reach 25? 50? 100? Make it a game by setting guidelines for the lists. For example, limit answers to only five a day and make a rule that they can’t duplicate anything their siblings have already written. Make sure to post each grateful list on the refrigerator door or bathroom mirror. Watch as the creative ideas filter in!
For younger kids, write the alphabet on a worksheet and, next to each letter, have them list or draw one thing they are thankful for. For example, your daughter is grateful for angels and your son for apples; or your son is grateful for Baxter (the family dog) and your daughter’s favorite color is blue—talk about their lists and have them tell you why they are grateful.
Put Them on Display
Choose items from your lists and put each on a shape cut out of colored paper. Design a wreath made out of multi-colored paper leaves or make shapes of ornaments to tape on a “Thankful Tree.”
Write Thank You Notes Together
Handwritten thank you notes will never go out of style. Teach your child the importance of writing out their appreciation. Each week before the new year, help your kids write a thank you note to someone they love. Once they tackle that list, encourage them to think on a bigger scale and write notes to the mailman, a soldier, their teacher or local firefighters.
Especially if your kids are young, you may need to help them get started with an outline to follow like this:
Thank you for ___
I think you are ___ because ___
I hope you know ___
Have a ____ day!
Perform Random Acts of Kindness
A great way to show you’re grateful is to share what you have to give! Plan a night to brainstorm ideas for random acts of kindness as a family. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
On a Saturday, spend the morning packing five to 10 brown bag lunches. Walk or drive around town until you give them all away.
Withdraw $100 in one to five dollar bills and help your children hand them out to strangers or leave them under the windshield wipers of parked cars.
Make treats and doorbell ditch them at a neighbor’s house. Bonus if you can all hide and watch from the bushes!
Go out to eat as a family and explain what it means to tip a waitress. When paying the bill, include your children in deciding how much to tip.
Live It All Year Long
The best way to teach your children about gratitude is to live it like a lifestyle instead of as a tradition you celebrate once a year. Make a habit of expressing thanks on a daily basis, especially to them. Leave reminders around the house if you need to! When they return the gesture, acknowledge their effort. After a little bit of time (and practice!), expect the level of appreciation for health and good fortune to grow like you never thought possible.