“Is that it?”
Your stomach drops and your blood pressure rises. Do they have any idea how many hours (not to mention how much money) you spent on shopping and wrapping? Or how long it took to put together that bike? Of course not. Kids are naturally self-focused and need a LOT of help learning to be grateful, and the holidays are sometimes a shockingly clear reminder of that.
There are already a number of stressors this time of year for adults, whether it’s staying within your budget or simply working out all the logistics of events and travel. If you’re constantly having to harp on your kids about thankfulness, too, the tone of the season can quickly turn from fun and festive to frantic and forlorn.
Fortunately, there are ways you can use the holidays as a time to specifically cultivate gratitude in your family that will hopefully become habit throughout the year! These three simple but powerful decisions will have each member of your family experiencing greater thankfulness for what truly matters.
Decision 1: Celebrate More, Consume Less
There’s no doubt that the most exciting part of the holidays for kids is opening gifts! The anticipation is high and because of that, there can be a huge letdown after the 10-minute frenzy of ripping paper off of boxes has ended.
Help kids celebrate other aspects of the holiday season this year by making less of a production about presents. Decide together on creating experiences that are about quality time, such as watching a classic holiday film together or going on a family hike. Some families also choose to take trips or purchase memberships to museums or organizations as a family gift. Make sure that each family member gets to share what is special to them about the holiday experience (aside from gifts, of course!)
You can also strengthen your ties to one another and find meaning of the season by attending religious services, volunteering or traveling to see family and friends. Seeing older generations, like grandparents for example, can be a time for great storytelling and memory making that keeps the focus on a family narrative that’s not gift-driven.
When gift-giving time does come, have each family member take turns opening one gift at a time, and if the giver is present, look them in the eye and say thank you. This can help kids (and adults!) truly appreciate what they receive, and practice a bit of patience while you’re at it.
Decision 2: Practice Gratitude Yourself
Kids learn by example and they pick up more of what we say and do than we realize sometimes. Think back over the last few weeks: can you recall a time you felt truly grateful? Did you say it out loud? We often forget to appreciate our experiences and what we have because we are running too quickly to the next thing or checked out on our phones, wishing we had that thing we just saw on Instagram or Pinterest.
Throughout the holiday season, step back and take a break to jot down a couple of things that you are grateful for! Then go for a walk, bike ride or share a meal with your kids and share a few of those things that make your heart glad. Let them hear you say a meaningful thank you to your spouse/partner, friends and even to them! Be specific about what you are grateful for and why. Gratitude is contagious: the more you express it, the more your kids will be on the lookout for it, and express it themselves.
Decision 3: Make A Gratitude Countdown
Out of sight = out of mind, so in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, how about keeping gratitude front and center as a family? There are a few ways you could approach this and we’d love to hear how you do it!
Our simple idea? Adopt a daily gratitude calendar. For the next week, put a calendar in your kitchen or another family gathering space where each member of your home can write down at least one thing a day they are grateful for! It can be on a chalkboard or whiteboard, or a big sheet of paper or poster if you don’t have a calendar already. Have the kids help create and decorate the calendar. It also might help to add to the calendar at a set time each day, whether during breakfast (to set an “attitude of gratitude” for the day) or during homework time in the afternoon (which can help put a fast end to complaints!) If everyone loves the activity, you can extend it and share what you’re grateful for year-round.
We’d love to hear from you! Share with us ways that you’ve helped your kids learn to practice gratitude.