Giving thanks is the star of Thanksgiving Day, but if that’s the only time a family verbalizes what they are thankful for, it just isn’t enough.
Gratitude is something children learn best by watching it modeled in everyday life. A father can say to a mother (or vice versa), “I really appreciate your work on putting this meal together. It’s delicious.” If children constantly hear parents appreciating one another, they will learn to do the same.
When you as a parent realize it’s your responsibility to model thanksgiving to your child, it changes the way you see the world.
You begin to look for blessings and it becomes easier to notice the hard work of others.
Recently, I was at a coffeehouse with my kids. I looked at the barista’s name, Marissa. I told my kids loud enough so she could hear, “Did you know that Marissa has to know how to make a hundred different drinks and that is a challenging job? She is working hard to make mommy’s coffee just right. Thank you Marissa!” Marissa’s face lit up. My kids were learning to appreciate others and I felt great for making Marissa’s day brighter. The giving of thanks blesses everyone involved.
Research shows that grateful people are more resilient and less depressed.
Kids who feel and act grateful tend to be less materialistic, get better grades, set higher goals, complain of fewer headaches and stomach aches, and feel more satisfied with their friends. Gratitude is also linked to lower levels of aggression. Kids who express thanks are more empathetic towards others, making them less prone to aggression and violent behaviors.
I remember when my son Ethan and I were at Disneyland without the other family members to celebrate his ninth birthday. He got to pick all the rides and shows he wanted. He gave this a lot of thought, outlining again and again to me the particular rides we would enjoy. I’m sure he laid in bed many nights dreaming about his day at Disneyland.
One of the rides he wanted to go on was the monorail, so we planned to ride it at the very end of the day. We arrived at the monorail station five minutes before the park closed, ready for our last hurrah.
We didn’t know it closed one hour before the park closed.
We stood motionless in front of that sign. I could see Ethan’s countenance fall flat. We had missed it. A gray cloud had descended on the end of our otherwise perfect day.
“I’m sorry we missed it Ethan. I didn’t expect for it to close so early.”
“I can’t believe we missed it,” he mumbled.
“Let’s make that souvenir penny at the exit,” I suggested.
After a few minutes, I started talking about all the wonderful things we had got to do that day.
Remember how there wasn’t a line at Autopia? That was so neat how the chimney sweep from Mary Poppins said happy birthday to you from the parade! With every step towards the exit, Ethan grew more even keeled and grateful for what had happened instead of upset about what hadn’t. By the time we got to the souvenir penny, he was back to his happy self. Later in the car he said those magic words, “Thank you so much mom for taking me to Disneyland today.”
You can help your child to give thanks even when things don’t go according to plan. Let them experience for themselves that good feeling of peace and contentment that comes as a result of learning to say thank you every day.