With Thanksgiving here, parents have been grateful for any tips to help their children learn about gratitude and its importance. Thankfully, I can provide some information on the topic of gratitude.

What is gratitude?

Gratitude is about being thankful for the things we have. It is pausing to notice and appreciate things we may often take for granted, like the roof over our heads, food on our table, family, friends and even access to a smartphone and technology.  It gives us the chance to take a moment to reflect on how fortunate we are when something good happens—whether it is big or small.

Be Grateful – It’s For Your Health

Believe it or not, feeling grateful can be good for our bodies and our minds too. Studies show that when we show gratitude to others, it helps boost our ability to learn new skills and make good decisions, as well as be happier, less stressed and less depressed. In addition, if we are grateful for someone doing a kind act for us, we are more likely to be kind to others in return.

Guide Your Children to Gratitude

How can you teach your children gratitude?  Here are some easy suggestions:

  • At dinner time or at bedtime ask your children what they are thankful for each day. 
  • Teaching children about the hardships of the past for one’s own family or by taking them to a museum or historic site can make them much more appreciative and grateful for what they have in the present.
  • Older children can benefit from keeping a gratitude journal in which they write down five things they are grateful for every day—which has been also found to make children happier and more optimistic.

Finally, teaching your children to find ways to donate 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. Above all, tell your children how thankful you are to have them as your children, which goes a lot further than giving them any material gift to show your gratitude.

Hopefully, tips like these will be viewed with gratitude when it comes to making sure gratitude is a key value emphasized — 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 University of Vermont College of Medicine. 

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