When we come back to school after the holidays I always start my classes by asking my students something specific about their holiday time at home. After Christmas I said to them, “Now, you are probably expecting me to ask you, ‘What’s your favorite thing you got for Christmas?’ ” And their faces lit up, hands shot up, all eager to share the answer to this question.
“However,” I said, “My question for you is this: What is your favorite gift that you GAVE someone for Christmas?” Hands slid down and little faces drooped.
What message are we imparting to our kids when we don’t teach them how to give to others during the very season when GIVING is the whole point?
Ok. So you are thinking, Someone should have mentioned this to me before Christmas...It’s a little late now.
So let’s look at this from another perspective. It’s not too late to teach your children to be thankful for the gifts they received. In fact it’s just about the right time to help/encourage them to write thankyou notes/emails/texts to family members who gave them gifts. There are several blogs/sites out there giving great detailed suggestions and ideas for ways to write a creative thank you note for kids of all ages.
Being thankful can also be as simple as modeling for your child, saying please and thank you to the person at McDonald’s who takes your order, even when you’re talking to a box in the drive through line.
Some families have a tradition at Thanksgiving of going around the table, giving each person the opportunity to say what they are thankful for. How about if you do this in your family, starting with Dad and Mom, at the dinner table once a week? That way thankfulness can grow to become a natural way of thinking.
Everyday events might present opportunities for you to teach your kids how to be grateful. Seeing people on the news who are affected by natural disasters, speaking to a homeless person on the street who is in need of money, putting together a Christmas shoe box to send to a child who probably will not have much. All of these situations can trigger emotions in your children that they may not understand. They just feel like they want to do something. Here is your opportunity to lead your child in ways that express gratitude.
Children learn by watching, especially watching their parents. You are their best model. If you are not outwardly showing gratitude to others, how will your children see it?
You may feel gratitude in your heart, and yet in the busyness of everyday life you just don’t think to let it show on the outside. But your children need to see what you are feeling. They need you to share what’s in your heart with them. That's how they will learn how to be thankful.