This time of year we’re reminded of how important it is to be thankful for what we have. Our possessions, our health, our friends, and our family—we have so much to be grateful for.
No matter what age your children are, understanding the concept of Thanksgiving and why being grateful is important is among the best lessons you can teach.
Listed below are five ways to teach the next generation about being grateful. Each lesson teaches a particular set of virtues, but all center on the who, what, and why of gratefulness.
There are few better ways to understand the importance of being grateful than meeting and helping people who are going through difficult times. Volunteering can take many forms: Meals on Wheels, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity, or your local homeless shelter, among many other places.
These groups aid less fortunate individuals and families all year round. Meals on Wheels provides hot meals for elderly men and women who are physically or financially unable to provide food for themselves. Habitat for Humanity builds homes for those who cannot afford one. The homeless shelter keeps people alive by providing meals and shelter, often without adequate funding or volunteers to do so.
When you and your children volunteer together, you’ll give them a first-hand look at why it’s important to be thankful for what you have—because there could come a time when you have none of it at all.
Employment and Physical Labor
To teach your kids the value of money and why it’s important to be grateful when they receive gifts from people, nothing beats some good old-fashioned hard work.
If they get a job, like working a cash register or a drive-through window, they’ll discover pretty quickly how hard it is to earn money. It’ll help them appreciate all you do with the money you make.
If you put them to work in your home or yard, it would help if you worked alongside them. (Otherwise they could take it for a punishment.) When you work alongside your kids to mow the lawn, clean up the basement or even cook a meal, you can put into perspective for them how much time it takes to keep things in order, as well as how rewarding it is when the job is complete.
This helps them realize to be grateful when others offer their helping hands or friendly advice on how to accomplish a task more easily.
Attending a church, synagogue, mosque, or other place of worship can be a deeply moving experience for people of any age. Your kids might benefit from the teachings of spirituality, and not just for gratefulness.
Religion teaches us all how to act morally toward others. Religion gives us guidance in dark times and helps us guide others as well. Perhaps you may even find some inspiration if your quest to instill gratefulness has hit a snag along the way.
Leading by Example
Kids mimic their parents. All the subtle ways you act toward others or tasks can rub off on your children, so take care to act how you want your children to act in turn.
For example, if somebody does something nice for you, like a neighbor mows your lawn while you’re out of town or someone at work stays late so you can see your daughter’s dance recital, how do you repay that favor?
Show your kids the nice thing that neighbor or coworker has done for you, then demonstrate your thankfulness. Without realizing it, your kids will pick up on the act and practice it in their own lives. Continue your own actions in the same way, even if you think your kids aren’t watching. You may end up bettering your own life for the benefit of theirs.
Teaching through Experience
Sometimes, all it takes is a simple conversation with your kids. Depending on your kids’ ages, perhaps you can relate some stories of your own experiences. Expand on the concept of Thanksgiving by watching movies or reading stories; the holiday season is the perfect time to instill a sense of gratefulness in your children that will last for the rest of their lives.