Gratitude allows children to step outside their own self-interest. It helps them understand that the goodness in their lives is something that isn’t always a given, but a privilege they have been afforded. Gratitude teaches them to identify and appreciate the people and circumstances that make all the good they experience in life possible.
Gratitude teaches humility and expands children’s worldview. And studies have shown that practicing gratitude can have positive effects on mental health.
You should read: 5 Ways to Make a Positive Impact on Your Community
Ways to Teach Gratitude
There are so many ways that you can practice gratitude with your children, on Thanksgiving and beyond. Even the littlest kids can join in on some of these activities, and they should, because teaching and practicing gratitude starts young.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Research has found that keeping a gratitude journal is a meaningful way to teach and instill gratitude in us all. The basic act of writing one thing you are grateful for each day is a powerful way to reflect and commemorate the things in your life that you are thankful for. Studies have shown that you don’t even have to share what you wrote: simply writing your gratitude down is beneficial.
Children who can’t write yet can draw pictures of what they are grateful for; they can also dictate their gratitude lists for you to write down. Older children can record their thoughts themselves. Your family can make November a gratitude month, and journal all month leading up to Thanksgiving. Making it a daily practice all year is even better.
Donate to a Local Charity
Practicing gratitude isn’t just about recognizing the good in your own life, but extending it to others who are less fortunate than you.
Having your children prepare food to donate to a soup kitchen, or items to drop off at a homeless shelter or women’s shelter—and discussing why these places are in need of donations—is a wonderful lesson for your children. It will help them appreciate the many riches they have in life and instill in them a desire to make sure that no one goes without essentials like food, clothes, and shelter.
Go Through Your Closets and Donate
Thanksgiving is a great time to take stock of what you have, clean out your closets, and donate to others. Have your child help you go through their clothes, toys, and even items in the pantry. Have them choose items that they no longer need or want, and have them accompany you to a church, charity, or another community establishment that is accepting donations for people in need this winter.
Do a Family Gratitude Sharing Circle
Many families spend time during or after Thanksgiving dinner saying what they are grateful for. You can simply have each family member go around the table and say one thing they are grateful for.
Or you can turn this into a bit of a game, where each family member writes what they are grateful for on a slip of paper, each slip of paper is tossed into a bowl, and then the “gratitude slips” are read out loud. Guests can even guess who wrote what.
Participate in a Neighborhood Clean-Up
Keeping a community clean is a group effort, and participating in a community clean-up is a great way to give back to your community, bond with others, and also take some time to appreciate the neighborhood you live in.
Neighborhood clean-ups may be held at beaches, parks, or along the sidewalk. They are a great way to meet new people and do your part to reduce pollution and garbage build-up in your area.
Raising a well-rounded child means teaching them to see the larger world around them, to understand that not everyone has as many advantages as they do, and to remain humble. It means giving back whenever possible, donating time and money to help those in need, and appreciating the people in their community who keep things running smoothly and safely.