With Thanksgiving here, parents have been grateful for any tips I can give to help their children learn about gratitude and its importance. Thankfully, I can provide some information on this topic.
Gratitude is about being thankful for the things we have. It is about pausing to notice and appreciate things we may often take for granted, like the roof over our heads, food on our table, family, friends, even access to a smartphone and technology. It is about taking a moment to reflect on how fortunate we are when something good happens, whether it’s a big thing or a small thing.
Believe it or not, feeling grateful can be good for our bodies – and our minds. Studies show that when we show gratitude to others, it helps us boost our ability to want to learn new skills and make good decisions. Gratitude can also make us happier, less stressed and less depressed.
So how can you teach gratitude to your children? At dinner time or at bed time, ask your children what they are thankful for. Teaching children about the hardships of the past by taking them to a museum or historic site can make them much more appreciative and grateful for what they have in the present. And you can teach them that if we are grateful for someone doing a kind act for us, we are more likely to be kind to others in return.
And of course, at this time of year, teaching your children to find ways to donate their toys, clothes, or food to those who are less fortunate is a great way to show gratitude.
Parents, don’t forget to be good role models: if you say thank you for something someone does for you whether it is serving your food or ringing up your purchase, your children will be more apt to say thank you as well. And of course tell your children how thankful you are to have them as your kids, which goes a lot further than giving them any material gift to show your gratitude.
Hopefully tips like this will be viewed with gratitude when it comes to making sure gratitude is a key value not just on Thanksgiving but every day of the year.
Lewis First, MD, is chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Robert Larner, M.D. College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at UVMHealth.org/MedCenterFirstWithKids.