This has been quite the year. Many of us feel discouraged, anxious or worried. Our children are most likely feeling the same things. And the holidays may look a bit different as many families will miss family gatherings or travel.
Developing gratitude has been shown to help with negative feelings. We can still create and nurture a sense of family, love and gratitude no matter where we are or who we are with. Here are some simple ways to practice gratitude this year with your child.
Make a gratitude list.
This is something you may have heard about, but it really is a great way to help your children begin to understand what it means to be grateful for the things in their lives. Sit with your child and start a conversation about what being thankful means. Share with them some things that you are grateful for. Allow them to share with you things that they may be grateful for.
Remember, there is no “right” answer to this. Anything that your child is grateful for is important and valid. After you have shared with your child, encourage them to go find something tangible that they are grateful for. Perhaps this is a favorite stuffed animal or book. Maybe it is a family picture that they have by their bed. Invite them to hold it close and reflect on why it is so important to them.
If making a list does not excite them, you could make it fun. Create a “BINGO” style game where they can find things around your home that they are grateful for. For example, make a square that says “something I am grateful to play with,” or “something I am grateful for when I go to sleep.” They can find these things and consider how and why they are thankful for them—all while playing a fun game.
You can do the same and it can be a great experience for both of you.
A handmade gift is meaningful to receive, and to make. If you are unable to visit family this year, this can be a great way for you and your children to work hard to create something beautiful for the people in your family.
Talk with your child about how creating something special for someone is a great way to show them that you are thankful they are in your life. Allow your child to think of things to make on their own. Your child will feel pride in what they create and the smile it generates from the person who receives the gift, and they will also be able to think more deeply about the people in their lives that they are grateful for.
One of the most important things you can teach your child is how to care for others who are less fortunate than they are. Every day as we drive or walk, we see people living on the streets. This is an opportunity to talk with your child about the realities of life and how we can work to support people in need.
Sit and talk with your child about how important it is to give back to their community and support people who are in need. Have an honest conversation with them about what that means and how it makes them feel.
Next, make a list with your child of items that they think could help people in need. Go to the store, collect those items and make little care packages. Put the care packages in your car so that while you are driving with your child, when you see someone in need, you can stop and leave a care package for them. It’s invaluable to help children understand that there are people in this world that have less than they do and that those people deserve love, respect and support.
This year has been tough on all of us, and our children are not immune to that. The upcoming holiday season is a great opportunity to come together as a family and remember the important things and to cultivate gratitude for the life that we have and the people in it.
Samuel Broaden is an early childhood educator, consultant and author. You can read more of his work at Honoring Childhood.