It’s all too easy to spoil our children and grandchildren during the holidays. We load them up with gifts in the hopes of bringing them joy. But opening presents brings only temporary excitement. For lasting joy, teach the children in your life to give to others and to say thanks.
"The holiday season is...a time to reconnect with family and friends and give thanks," says William Hansen, a psychologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. "[It] lends itself well to introducing and reminding adults and children [alike] about the importance of being grateful." Kids instilled with a genuine sense of goodwill have lifelong contentment.
Here, Hansen offers tips on teaching kids to pause and offer thanks:
- Model thankfulness. Display good manners and use thankful language in front of your child and ask other adult relatives to do the same. Home is where the heart is, so make it a priority in your household. Say, "Thank you for helping Mommy put away the laundry."
- Remember to say "thank you" to people no matter how big or small their assistance to you. When you're shopping with your child, for example, remember to say thank you to the salesperson who helped you and "happy holidays" to the overworked cashier. Your little one can chime in.
- Teach your child to be grateful for what he already has. Before the frenzied opening of holiday gifts, have your youngster name the toys and belongings that he is already thankful for. Older children can write a list, and post it in their rooms.
- Write thank you notes. Parents often rush to write notes on their kids behalf to meet social obligations. But it's far more beneficial to ask your child to write her own notes (or draw pictures) to say thank you for a gift or act of kindness. She can also write a note to the teacher, the babysitter and the bus driver.
- Encourage charity. Explain to your child what you are doing when you contribute to a charity, collect food for the food-bank or perform other acts of giving. Use those situations to explain the needs of others and remind your child that while he may not have everything he wants, he has everything he needs.
- Volunteer together. Have your child collect his gently used toys or clothing for donation. Let him help you bake cookies for the local nursing home. And ask him to offer his own ideas for giving back. Children love being helpful. It makes them feel grownup.
- Praise your child when she shows thankfulness. When we praise grateful behaviors, children are more likely to repeat them. Praise also boosts their self-esteem.
- Make goodwill a habit. Remember, thankfulness is not just for the holidays. Consider year-round opportunities for your youngster to acknowledge the people and things she is grateful for in her life.
By demonstrating gratitude, your child enjoys the true spirit of the holiday season.
News release, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Nov 19, 2012