What are you thankful for? It is the question that is posed every Thanksgiving as we reflect upon our good fortunes and give thanks with family and friends. However, the more important question we should be asking ourselves is if our kids actually understand what gratitude is and how to express it?

Research shows that by counting your blessings every day, you will become more optimistic and have an improved life satisfaction. What is even more interesting is that recent studies have also determined that by instilling gratitude in your kids by the age of five, they will live happier lives. So how to we help our children understand the meaning behind the phrase "thank you"?

1) Talk About The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Photo by Pablo Merchán Montes on Unsplash

Sometimes it can be hard for young kids to see the big picture. Actually, let's be honest, sometimes it is hard for adults as well. We tend to fixate on the bad parts of our day and forget about the moments that made us joyful.

Thus, whether it be on the ride home from school, at dinner, or before they go to bed at night, take time to discuss the day. What made them smile? What made them mad? How could it have been better?

Make sure that you take a turn as well. It is important for them to see that everyone has ups and downs and that it is a normal part of life. It is also how we learn to be grateful for the positive parts of our day.

2) Go Beyond Teaching Good Manners

talking with kids
Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

From a small age, we are taught to say thank you. However, if there is no real meaning behind the phrase, then it is a pointless gesture. When teaching your toddler and young kids gratitude, it is important to ask them how they feel about the gift they received from their grandpa or to talk about the fun experience they had with their Aunt at the park.

Then, talk about the ways in which they could show this person how they felt about the gift or excursion. By taking the time to notice this gesture of kindness and discuss ways in which your child can recognize their feelings, they can better understand the concept of gratitude.

3) Give Some Perspective

Angel Tree
Photo by Valentin Petkov on Unsplash

Think about the legend of the Loch Ness Monster. Some people swear that they have seen it while others denounce the existence of this mythical creature. Needless to say, seeing is believing. The same thing goes for our kids -- if they have only been surrounded by love and support, then they have no real understanding of the hardship that others face.

We, of course, want to protect our children from the ugliness in this world, but it is important to show them that even small acts of kindness can have an amazing effect on others. Therefore, talk to them about their blessings and the fact that not all children get to have those same graces. Then, ask them if they would want to help those kids in need!

The Angel Tree is an amazing opportunity to introduce this concept, but you can also take part in coat and toy drives throughout the season. This not only helps them to see the gratitude of others when they receive this generosity, but it also allows them to better comprehend the concept of empathy.

4) Teach By Example

role model
Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

Kids are like sponges. They absorb everything they see and hear. Thus, take the time to say thank you and acknowledge your own feelings of gratitude.

For example: "That was so nice of that man to hold the door open for mommy! I couldn't have done that without his help since my hands are full of groceries!"

When you point out small gestures and the big impact they can have, your child is more likely to recognize similar acts, better appreciate them, and acknowledge them as well.

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