Thanksgiving: The top 5 tips for fostering gratitude in kids

Culture may be pushing kids to want, want, want, but a growing body of research shows that gratitude for what one already has is a huge component for kids of not just happiness, but of physical health, life satisfaction, and even grade point average. So what’s a parent to do? How does one foster gratitude in children, not just for the holidays but for the whole year? Never fear – we’ve read a bunch of the research and have come up with our top five tips for fostering gratitude in kids.

2. Model gratitude

Mike Staugaitis/The News-Item/AP
Arabelle Broscious, 5, of Mount Carmel, left, collects her cash from dental assistant Kelly Long and Dr. J.C. Owens, in Shamokin, Pa., as Owens Dentistry collected candy from area children as part of Operation Gratitude, a program designed to send Halloween candy to U.S. Armed Forces overseas as a way to say thanks, Nov. 5, 2012.

Leading by example is one of the key ways to teach your children about gratitude. If you’re rushing through a lovingly prepared Thanksgiving dinner so you can get yourself to the Big Box store in time to get your new flatscreen, what message does that send to Junior? 

It’s sort of hard to get on his case later for not appreciating a home-cooked meal.  

On the other hand, if kids catch you saying “thank you,” they will be more likely to recognize that gratitude is a practiced part of life. (And indeed, many researchers say that gratitude is practiced – it’s an emotional skill that develops and deepens the more one expresses it.) 

So do a self check: Did you thank the woman who handed you your coffee this morning?  Did you thank the driver who stopped to let you cross at the cross walk? Did you thank your husband for doing the laundry? Did you thank your daughter for remembering to hang up her winter coat?  It doesn’t matter whether you think these other people should be doing these actions; expressing gratitude both encourages them and helps you.

Meanwhile, when you catch your child expressing gratitude, reinforce it. Give her a hug and tell her that it makes you feel happy when she notices something you’ve done. 

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