Thanksgiving is more meaningful than simply gathering family and celebrating a good meal. With many public schools dropping the celebration of all holidays, parents have a unique opportunity to teach their children about thankfulness. This time of year is perfect for cultivating an understanding and practice of gratitude. A grateful perspective has been shown to develop more optimistic and resilient attitudes in children. Children with a grateful perspective experience:

  • Less negative emotions
  • Bounce back quicker from adversity
  • Report feeling better connected to school and family
  • Higher levels of well-being
  • Less likely to bully or be bullied
  • Les judgmental
  • Positive internal self-talk
  • Better academic success

This is an important concept for young learners to master as these beneficial outcomes extend beyond academics; often predicting healthy human development. Children under age six can conceptualize gratitude as things we are thankful for and people who make our lives special. Young children enjoy creating cards, pictures, and art to express their appreciation to teachers, family, and friends.

Children over age six can connect deeper meanings of gratitude to their lives. Parents can explore the variety of blessings and opportunities in life that are available to us. With older children, you can create a visual graphic of gratitude to solidify thankfulness and generate a purposeful work of art. For example, families can create a graph with a bubble in the center listing the things in their life they are grateful for. With lines coming out of the bubble (using ribbon, yarn, fancy pens) you then create more bubbles demonstrating what had to happen for those items in the center bubble to be possible. Identifying people and circumstances in our environment, neighborhoods, society, and government help to connect the larger picture of how and why things happen. It is remarkable to see children make connections between the things they listed in the center bubble to external things that make it all possible. Our history and community really comes alive with this activity and it generates thoughtful discussions for those who might be less fortunate. This activity is effective for all children, regardless of spiritual or religious faith.

Creating a bigger picture of gratitude allows for a deeper perspective to develop in young minds. As such, it is beneficial to have various opportunities for children to express their new found perspective. Art, writing cards, visiting people, and kindness are a few ideas to explore with your children. Next month’s article will be dedicated to some of the most popular ideas for expressing gratitude with children. An attitude of gratitude is year-round…take this time to allow it to cultivate within your family.