While the holiday season is a wonderful time for families, we often hear parents express concern that their kids are too focused on the presents they’re receiving, instead of on the meaning of and spirit behind the season.
Christmas provides an ideal time to teach kids about the importance of being grateful. It’s a lesson that can transform their behavior and attitudes, and it’s one they can carry into their adult lives. That’s important, because studies have shown that being grateful leads people to live happier lives with greater personal satisfaction, and to be more empathetic toward other people. Gratitude builds stronger and deeper relationships with others.
One way to share the value of gratitude with your kids is to make sure they know you’re grateful that they’re in your life. You probably tell them you love them every day, but when was the last time you told them what makes them special in your eyes? That message will mean more to them and last longer than the toys under the tree.
Find teachable moments during your daily life where you can point to something you’re grateful for. It can be as simple as the beauty of a sunset or time spent talking with a friend. After you’ve pointed these things out to them for a few days, start asking what they’re grateful for.
Encourage them to thank others. It’s one thing to simple say “thank you,” but writing a note to a teacher or a grandparent to share what makes them grateful will be far more meaningful for the recipient, and it will help your child become more attuned to gratitude.
It can also be valuable to connect gratitude with your faith. Instead of telling the kids they “have to” come to church, explain that it’s a privilege to join with others in a faith community to learn about Jesus and serve those around them. Tell them how your faith has supported you in life and what you’ve seen it do for others. Encourage them to participate in service projects and mission trips and ask them how what they’ve learned will affect their lives.
Of course, the best way to encourage your children to live lives of gratitude is to model those behaviors yourself. Our children hear our words, but they pay closer attention to our actions and our behavior. If they see us showing gratitude for life’s wonders and demonstrating it to those around us, they’ll be more likely to carry that attitude of gratitude into adulthood and, one day, share it with your grandchildren.
Do you find it difficult to communicate your values with your kids? Are they resisting your efforts to raise them the way you feel is best? Our professional counselors have extensive experience at helping parents and children develop more meaningful and effective connections. Contact us today to set a convenient time to talk.
Brittany Smith is one of Care to Change’s therapists. She is trained in TBRI, an evidence based model proven to make a difference in parenting.