An Attitude with Gratitude
Dr. Valerie Allen
Even in difficult economic times, we live in a land of abundance. Most families exceed the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter. Children have more than ample toys and clothes. Often, they have difficulty finding storage for the excess items in their bedrooms and play areas. In this land of plenty, it is difficult to teach children how to appreciate what they have. The joy of giving is often lost in the expectation of getting.
How do we teach children to be thankful for what they have? We need to engage them in the act of giving and doing for others. They will not only develop an appreciation for what they have, but will learn to care for their belongings, and have the satisfaction that comes from sharing and helping others.
Here are some activities you can do to develop gratitude and appreciation in your youngster.
- Thoughtful Families: Set an example at home. Discuss acts of kindness by friends, coworkers, or family members. Acknowledge heroic acts, which are reported in the paper or on the news. Talk about charitable donations and organizations such as the March of Dimes, Hospice House, and Habitat for Humanity. Help children understand there are others less fortunate who are in need of financial and emotional support. Tell them about Mother Theresa and her famous words, “We cannot do great things—only small things with great love.”
- Thankful Thursdays: In the spirit of Thanksgiving, plan a day of gratitude each week throughout the year. Children can make a list or draw a picture of all the people and things in their lives to be thankful for each week. They can keep track of what they have done for others, as well as what others have done for them. You can help them plan a random act of kindness for the following week. Soon they will develop the spirit of Thanksgiving during every season of the year.
- Take Action: Children can visit a nursing home, draw pictures and mail them to shut ins, or help a neighbor with yard work. More formal activities can be arranged through a church or volunteer organization to help at a school, collect canned goods, or work at an animal shelter. Children can make place mats, napkin rings, or menu cards for meals-on-wheels. They can participate in community clean up days, plant a tree, or help collect litter at a park. Encourage your children to become a positive influence in the community.
- Thank You Notes: Children should get in the habit of writing notes to express appreciation. Not just for birthday or holiday gifts, but for those who give their time or help with projects. Write letters to teachers, neighbors, firefighters, police officers, the pediatrician, the scout leader, or the choir director to recognize their time and effort. Cyber kids can send thanks via email.
- Thrift Stores: Teach children to share. Have your youngster clean out toy boxes and clothes closets once a month. Have them remove an old item when replacing it with something new. Have them bundle up the items and take them to a consignment or thrift shop or a domestic shelter to be shared with others.
- Twice Around: Recycle, reuse, and re-purpose. Recycling is a wonderful way to respect and preserve our environment. Children can save and sort newspapers, cans, glass jars, and plastic containers. They can also be creative by using items in unique ways. For example, the plastic bags from groceries can be reused as trash bags. The Sunday comics can be used as wrapping paper. Small plastic containers can hold pieces and parts from board games, hair accessories, or jewelry.
Money is not the essential factor in helping others. Children need to learn giving of themselves is the most important gift they can offer. Doing for others is the best way to develop and attitude of gratitude in your youngster.
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Dr. Valerie Allen is a child psychologist, speaker, and author. She has published two books for children in grades 3 to 6 , “Summer School for Smarties” and “Bad Hair, Good Hat, New Friends.” Oh yes, she has also raised six children!