Yep, Thanksgiving is over. But that doesn’t mean that the attitude of gratitude has to die down in any way. In fact, it’s important to bond with your child and remind them that thankfulness should not spike and fall depending on the day, but rather be a consistent sentiment that should be embodied when the situation calls for it. This also leads to happier children who are aware of the blessings and privileges in their lives, as opposed to taking items and activities for granted and feel as though they lack certain advantages.
Other than the day of Thanksgiving, there are quite a few activities you can do with your child to teach them about gratefulness.
The Thankfulness Tree.
My aunt does this with my cousin, and I think it’s an incredibly cute and creative way to go about the idea! At the start of the year, she creates a two-dimensional tree trunk with empty branches and sticks it to one side of her wall. Then, every time my cousin has something to be grateful for — no matter how big or small — he writes it out on a leaf and pins it onto the branch or trunk. At the end of the year, they take an hour or two to appreciate everything that has happened to my cousin in the year. This may seem like a long-term game, but in actual fact, it teaches your child to be conscious of each day and the things that happen in it as opposed to simply going with the flow. Moreover, if you feel like a year is too long, you could create a smaller tree for weekly or monthly reflections instead.
Show, not Tell.
The key with kids, no matter their age, is to do more than you tell. Always thank your child for a task done, and show your gratitude to them so that they learn how to show it back. Teach them what “thank you” means, and why they should say it. It happens all too often, especially with Asian parenting, that we get shy with our thankfulness and love for children, and then expect gratitude from kids without having taught them how to express it.
Letter writing has benefits which are two-fold. First, it lets your child process their feelings so that they can write it down. This way, they’re outrightly acknowledging what they’re thankful for. Secondly, it teaches them how to show appreciation to others. Some children may be shyer than others, and it may not be as easy for them to give others a hug or an acknowledgement of thanks. This is where letter-writing steps in to show them that shyness is not a hindrance in expressing their feelings.
It has been proven that teaching children about gratitude reduce the tendency for “social comparison”, i.e. the notion of comparing their material goods with others. It can result in overspending, strained relationships, constant dissatisfaction and tantrum-throwing. Conversely, focusing on the positive side makes them more aware of their blessings and drives their focus away from material satisfaction. Lack of empathy and emotional awareness can lead to entitlement behaviour, and one way to counter that is to make them more in touch with their feelings and that of others. It’s not very difficult to teach gratitude and thankfulness to kids either: a few actions that they can follow will do the trick!