Kids are great. They bring smiles and laughter to even the worst days. No matter how bad I feel, a smile and a hug from my kids makes me feel better than anything else could.
It was shortly after Father’s Day that I began to realize my kids had so much to give thanks for, and they had no idea how to do it. Instead of shrugging it off and moving on, I developed a plan to teach my kids how to give thanks all year, instead of just a couple of holidays. So far, the results have been successful. The plan is very simple.
1. Teach them to remember that “making something is one way to say I love you.” This works both for when they make something for someone else, or when someone else makes something for them.
2. Teach them to say “thank you for everything you do” whenever they feel it is necessary. There’s a little melody that goes along with the phrase so they can remember it. Sometimes they repeat it to me when I make them lunch or give them a hug. Sometimes they repeat it when I help them with a big project. Either way, it has already started working.
3. Help them send out e-cards to people they cannot physically reach out to. Thanks to the internet, it is easy to stay connected with people we love who are far away, but kids don’t always know how to express themselves to people they cannot see in person.
I have started introducing them to e-cards. If grandma is far away, letting the kids pick out funny ecards from Hallmark helps them connect again. Sometimes there is no real reason for the card other than just to say “We miss you” or “We love you.” It doesn’t matter. The kids love it and it helps them stay connected with people who can’t be around.
4. Set a good example. It’s one thing to tell kids they need to be thankful. It’s another thing to show them how. Whenever my husband or I do something for the other, we always try to say “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.” Kids follow the lead that parents set forward. By acting grateful toward each other as well as others, we are teaching them to do the same through our own actions.
5. Point out the actions of others. This works with those who have done something right or something wrong. It’s as simple as saying, “Remember when so-and-so helped you not be afraid? How did that make you feel?” From there, just encourage conversation to make the child associate good and bad feelings from the actions of others.
While we haven’t been at this for too long yet, there have already been positive results. Our kids are quicker to say thanks when someone helps them, and are more at ease helping others too. They seem to understand that this positive behavior has a directly positive effect on others. Teaching kids empathy and appreciation is rewarding to them now, and in the future.