6 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude in Kids
Written by Tiffany Marascio, guest writer of Hello Woodlands and a local Woodlands mother of three. Marascio began making planners for her kids when they struggled with organization and now owns Planners4Kids to help make kids planners for life.
We do our best as parent to give our kids everything we can with the best of intentions. Perhaps we grew up without these items, or we are trying to make sure they have what their friends have; however, the result can be an expectation of everything all the time.
This is not to say that we should not give them things. There can be a balance of giving and withholding.
Let Kids Know When an Item or Event is a Special Treat
Even something as simple as the extra effort of making a special meal, or getting an ice cream on a summer day is a special treat. It’s important to discuss that it is not everyday event.
How a child asks for something is important also. If there is expectation in the request, then it is an indication they are not grateful. Model how you would like the question to be asked until they get it right.
For the most impact, volunteering should be done year round, not just at holidays. There are many charities that allow children to participate. DirectHope allows children to feed the homeless in downtown Houston with their parents, in a real and raw but monitored environment. Houston Children Give Back lets kids get involved in the choosing and fundraising projects for those in need. There are options local to The Woodlands as well. The Refugee Project based here in The Woodlands lets children and families get involved in many ways, including recycling fabric from old shirts to be used as yarn to be knitted into project that displaced women can sell.
Visiting the elderly can foster a connection and create empathy, and can be done right here in The Woodlands. Also something as simple as making cards or bags for the homeless or Women’s Shelter is a great start. Consider having a birthday party where gifts are for an organization instead of the child. This should be done with the child’s involvement, and by letting them pick out the charity. While sports and extracurricular activities are important, so too is volunteering, and it’s a great way to spend family time together—an added bonus!
Allowance teaches children the value of money, and by extension, why they should be grateful for what they have. Let your child choose the item they wish to purchase and save for it without adding extra money to help them reach the goal. Try not to discourage the item. They need to learn on their own if the item is a waste of money.
Chores teach children the value of helping right at home. It creates empathy for the household, in addition to work ethic. Kids need to see value in housework and feel grateful for all that parents do to support them.
This can be any notepad, but it needs to be designated for gratitude writing. Let the child pick out their own special notebook so they will want to use it. It shouldn’t be a chore, but visited often. Kids may need help getting started with writing prompts. You may suggest simple things like what they love in nature, what they learned today, or what made them happy today.
Kids need quiet time to reflect on the world around them and all they have. Just a few minutes of being aware, focusing on how great it feels to breathe, feel the sun, or be in their own skin is helpful. This may be hard for kids and they may need simple guidance at first, in what to focus on. For kids, the point is not to be still, but just to be present.
Although many of these points are things we may already know, just being aware of the facts is not enough. Like everything that is worthwhile in life, it requires maintenance. Remember that where we spend our time is the truest indication of what is most important to us.
Of course, kids are always looking to their parents as examples. If we are grateful, and speak about it in our daily lives, they will have a better understanding of gratitude.
Learn more about Tiffany Marascio and Planners4Kids at Planners4Kids.com