Children are exposed to media messages about buying expensive clothes, shoes, and games on a daily basis. Commercials often communicate an attitude of greed and discontent, suggesting that it’s not important to care about others or be satisfied with what you have. Parents and teachers have to work extra hard to teach children about values such as gratitude, compassion, and kindness.  Do you model an attitude of gratitude in your family? If not, you can start today and see how it changes your mood and helps you feel connected to others.

Here are some ways to help children develop gratitude:

  • First reflect on the things you’re grateful for. Write them down, or say them aloud. Your attitude will have a great influence on your children. Then ask your children what they’re grateful for. Encourage them to make a list, draw a picture, or write a poem.
  • Teach your children to say thank you when they are given a present or a service. For example, ask “How would you like to show your gratitude to Grandma Mary for spending the day with you and taking you to the movies and your favorite restaurant?”
  • Let your children know you appreciate them. Give them specific examples like, “When you read a book to your little sister, it makes her happy and it gives me a chance to make dinner. Thank you for your help.”
  • Be generous to others, and include your children in the experience. You can bake extra pies and together bring them to a neighbor who’s alone or a shelter for the homeless. When you get good service from a waitress, a banker, or a doctor, say ”Thank you” and talk about why you appreciated the experience.
  • Point out the ways in which your family is fortunate. At dinnertime each family member can go around the table and say one thing they’re grateful for.
  • Spend time outdoors and enjoy the wonders of nature. Tell you children how much you appreciate the sun, the rain, and the natural elements around you.  Encourage your child to learn ways to protect the environment.
  • Participate in a beach clean up program, a food drive, or a community fundraiser. You children will take notice when you communicate with actions your desire to help people who are less fortunate than you.

Before you go to bed at night, spend a few minutes reviewing your day and what you are grateful for. Developing an attitude of gratitude in yourself is a wonderful way to teach your children about living a meaningful and happy life.

By Rona Renner, RN