By Becc Lester-Beam, Community Outreach Coordinator at Seminole Science Charter School
Thanksgiving is a time for us all – little ones included – to pause and consider the many things we have to be thankful for. With the pandemic disrupting our sense of normalcy, limiting our social interactions and cancelling our plans, finding gratitude may be a bit more challenging in 2020. Here are some tips to help talk to your children about thankfulness after a difficult year.
While a child may have mastered saying “thank you” at the appropriate time, it’s important to dig a little deeper to ensure they truly understand what being grateful means. According to The Raising Grateful Children Project at UNC Chapel Hill, gratitude comes in four parts: noticing, thinking, feeling and doing. To help children grasp a comprehensive understanding of appreciation, parents can ask gratitude questions, such as:
What are things you’re grateful for beyond physical items, like toys and games? Are you grateful for any people in your life, like a friend, family member or pet?
What does this person do that makes you grateful? Do you think they do it because they have to or because they want to?
How does this person make you feel? What does it feel like inside when they’re around?
Is there a way to show how you feel about this person? How about writing them a note or doing something nice for them?
While the family is gathered for the holidays, engage them in a group project that invites everyone to share their gratitude in a fun and interactive way. Grab a poster board or a bulletin board and ask each family member to write down five things they’re grateful for on sticky notes. One by one, share what each note says before sticking them on the board. Once everyone has shared, display your family gratitude board in a place everyone can see it. Throughout the holiday season, you’ll each be reminded of your blessings this year.
Like everything else, children learn about thankfulness by watching their parents experience gratitude. Beyond being polite and saying “thank you,” parents can make it a point to share what they’re grateful for over dinner or during a car ride. This can be particularly important during times of stress or frustration. If you’ve had a rough day, turn it into an opportunity for seeing the silver lining – and your child will do the same.
This year has been tough for us all, but especially our children. Allow them the space and time they deserve to feel sad or frustrated that things didn’t turn out as they’d hoped. Then, practice these gratitude exercises. By helping your child keep things in perspective, you'll teach them to begin doing it on their own. They'll start to see that they have a lot to be grateful for, even on their worst days.