The best gift you can give your kids is the gift of appreciation. However, this goes beyond simply saying, "Thank you." The key is to engage your kids in fun, and interactive activities that will foster life-long skills of empathy and compassion.
10 Creative Ways to Give Thanks
Experiment with the following ideas to see which ones resonate with your family to really bring out that sense of gratitude. Find a few you enjoy and make it a part of your family's tradition.
1. Keep a Gratitude Jar
Throughout the year, note the events, people, and experiences you're most grateful for by writing them on scraps of paper and collecting them. On Thanksgiving, read each one aloud. It may surprise you how ordinary things, such as having a home, garner the most gratitude. It will inspire your family to continue to appreciate the presents they already have throughout the holidays.
2. Lend a Hand
Volunteering is a great family activity that will teach your kids the importance of giving back. Also, seeing others who are enduring hardship will show your family that they already have a plethora of things to be grateful for.
3. Create a Gratitude Collage
To take advantage of all those photos you have on your smart phone and computer, compile and print out images that best reflect who and what you most appreciate. Then frame, or use it as your holiday greeting card.
4. Do Something Nice
Leave a note in your child's lunchbox expressing gratitude for his good deed or for a change, do one of your spouse's expected household chores. These seemingly simple acts of kindness will help remind you to appreciate the little things and will hopefully pass the gratitude forward.
5. Grow a Garden
Too often people eat mindlessly. Plant herbs, fruits and vegetables, and you'll learn to appreciate the time, care and tending that's needed to produce the food on your table.
6. Write a Gratitude Journal
According to a 2003 study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, focusing on gratitude causes more feelings of well-being and positivity. You can pass down the benefits by weekly jotting down the people, events and experiences that you couldn't live without.
7. Let Your Kids Contribute
Give your family the taste of philanthropy. Help them embrace the philanthropic spirit by raising funds by doing the following:
- Plan a garage sale where the proceeds go to a charity.
- Collect coins throughout the year in a bank for donation.
- Let them contribute a part of their allowance for a good cause.
Lastly, empower your children by letting them read about and then decide which cause to donate to. It will teach them that they can make a difference in the lives of others.
8. Say Goodbye to Your Tech Toys
A 2011 study published in Personality and Social Psychology Review reported that technology may be a major contributor in the decline of empathy in American college students. To combat the potential negative effects, put your tech toys away for an hour or an entire day and go outdoors instead. While you're likely to be met with resistance, you'll appreciate the family bonding time.
9. Send a Handwritten Note
These days, a handwritten note of thanks is a rare treasure both for the receiver and the person who writes it. Having your children acknowledge a gift, sentiment or any act of generosity gives them the opportunity to reflect on the kindness. Remind them it's not about the gift per se, but the generous intent behind it.
10. Model Appreciation
Kids learn best by watching you. To encourage gratitude, make a point to be thankful yourself. Besides showering the people in your daily life with kind words and small tokens to say, "Thanks," don't forget to recognize compassion in your children. Telling them you noticed her efforts will go a long way in reinforcing more positive behavior.
Cultivating an attitude of gratefulness takes time. In this day and age of instant gratification, it's getting harder to teach. However, once learned, it has the power to change the course of your family's lives by helping them become better workers, friends, partners and people.