Teaching your children to say "thank you" is only half the battle. It's equally as important to teach them to be thankful. By helping kids recognize the positive aspects of life-like sharing their favorite things to appreciating a kind gesture-they will find deeper meaning in their day-to-day experiences. Read on for little activities you can do with your children to help them grow into grateful, satisfied and optimistic adults.
Every night before bedtime, ask your child: "What were your five favorite things today?" says Jeffrey Froh, PsyD, director of The Laboratory for Gratitude in Youth at Hofstra University. Though younger children don't fully grasp the concept of gratitude, simply starting a habit that helps them notice good things in their lives conditions them to become more positive.
Ages 8 to 10
Kids at this age are just beginning to understand feelings of appreciation, so it's important to explain a kind gesture to your child clearly, suggests Dr. Froh. "If a relative or friend does something kind for your kid, help him understand the thoughtful nature of the gesture and how it made his life better." For example, say, "That was nice of Grandma to take the time to bake you a cake for your birthday. And, look, it's chocolate-your favorite."
Read uplifting true stories about kind deeds done by strangers.
Ages 11 to 13
Give your child a camera and tell her to take photos of the things she's most grateful for over the course of a week. Print the pictures and make a collage on a poster or bulletin board. In Dr. Froh's 2007 two-week study of sixth- and seventh-graders, those who wrote a daily list of things they were thankful for showed increased optimism, life satisfaction and gratitude. The idea is the same here: Turning grateful thoughts into concrete actions of selfexpression- whether writing, drawing or taking a photo- helps make them more real to your child.
Ages 14 and up
Watch a film that has gratitude as its theme, like Field of Dreams or The Pursuit of Happyness, and talk about it afterward. "Mirror neurons are brain cells that help us experience similar emotions to those around us," says Dr. Froh. "At this age, kids begin to think abstractly and logically because of the development of these neurons." So watching someone experience intense gratitude, like the characters do in the films, will help your teen feel it too.
Photo: © Getty Images
Why not take a few minutes and write down a short list with your child/ren about the things and people they are grateful for this Christmas? For example -
"I am thankful for my mum because _________________eg. she takes care of me"
"I am thankful for my dad because __________________eg. he reads me stories"
"I am thankful for my pet because ___________________eg. she gives me cuddles"
"I am thankful for my siblings because _______________eg. they help me learn"
And please let us take the opportunity to thank each and every one of our clients, friends & loved ones -
We are truly thankful for all the love and positive energy that you have sent our way during 2011!
Looking forward to a wonderful festive season and an even brighter new year in 2012!
Vanessa & Lauren
The Small Talk Speech Pathology Team