How often do we as kids or adults have the attitude where we can't see what we are thankful for even when it is sitting on the table right there in front of us? During November many of us spend time thinking about our blessings and it is the perfect time to teach kids about being thankful.
Leslie Stine is joining us today as a guest writer with tips on how to teach your kids of all ages how to be thankful for what they have. Leslie has been married to her husband Andy since 2010, and is mommy to a baby girl named June who was born in March, 2013. Leslie has a degree in Early Childhood Education, specializing in ages 0-3. I am excited to share Leslie's post today and hope that we will be seeing more of her here at The Modern Day Mom.
Every mom can agree the hardest job in the world is to balance getting and giving your children everything they need and most of what they want, and teaching them how to appreciate it at the same time. When we are teaching our children life lessons this is a big one, from toddlerhood to teens this is just hard. Here are some ideas that are not your typical “take things away until they appreciate it more”.
Let’s start with some ideas for toddlers, as a small child under the age of three you are naturally self- centered. You are used to relying on mommy, daddy, and caregivers your whole life. By the time your child is the age of two their cognitive abilities are to learn that they are a separate being from you, with thoughts and choices of their own. So how do we teach these little bundles of emotional expressive children to be thankful? We lead by example, telling people around you “thank you”, or “I appreciate you doing this for me”. This creates a reaction of gratuity in their little minds. Also, teaching them the developmentally appropriate response to a kind act done in their favor, especially by a parent, sibling, or caregiver.
Now what about ages three to preteen? At this point your child is vocal and has the abilities to understand empathy. They go from “all about me” toddlerhood, to a more caring and respectful manner. Along with leading by example, at this age there are more hands on activities you can do such as, handwriting thank you cards. This encourages handwriting skills, and a life skill that has been long forgotten. When your child sits down to write a thank you note to someone they truly have to think about the things in their life this person effects and how they make it better. Have your child write a thank you note to someone in their life once a month. Don’t just limit it to special events and times, this continues to keep them thinking about their blessings they have every day. Another idea is at dinner time or bedtime have your child name at least three things that happened that day that made them feel thankful for all they have.
Now what about the last of those preteen years and teenage years? Now this may seem impossible some days, but your teenager does have it in them to care for other people. Through all the changes in their lives and the way they think, as they gain full independence in their minds, your teachings of life lessons and morals are still in there somewhere. This is the time to teach them to feel good about the things they have but also the things they can do to help others. Teach them that the gift of giving feels good. Lead by example, this is big, you can tell your child “that must be terrible” when watching all those commercials about mistreatment of people or animals. But, if you’re not doing anything they won’t either. This doesn’t mean jump up and send all your extra money to a foundation, this means get online, research the people or places in your local committee that need help. Teach your child that life happens and it is not always good, these people that need help once had what you have and now it is gone for many reasons. This shows your child that there is no way to know what your plan is. Volunteer with your teen at a local food pantry, or homeless shelter. Do this on a week day during the summer or on a weekend in the school year, not just when the holidays come. This teaches your child that people are always in need, and reinforces the ideas that you have many blessings in your life all year round. You may be surprised what happens when your teen starts feeling good about what they can do for other people. Lastly, encourage them to thank the people that are in their lives on a regular basis such as, teachers, coaches, and friends.
A few other ideas that may work for all ages of your family:
. Make gratitude jar. Fill it with little notes of gratitude throughout the year, (I am thankful we won the game) choose a day each year to open this and read everything good that has happen.
Celebrate your year. Every birthday make a list of things in your life that you are thankful for right now. Even a three year old could name a few of their favorite things.
Make a homemade gift list. Help your preschoolers make a list of homemade gift ideas they can make that they know their friends or teachers would like. This teaches them that they can show empathy to others and it feels good to do for others, and it is fun!
Commit to memory. Memorize your favorite poem, prayer, or Bible passage. It will be helpful to have it there for a little extra support when things get hard.
Okay, mom hope some of these ideas help, it isn’t easy to teach your child to count their blessings. The more you do it the more it will stick and you will be surprised at the results you may get. Remember to count your blessings every day, even on the days when being a mom is hard.
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