By Cammie Jones
As we enter the season of Thanksgiving and the holidays, we are bombarded with advertisements, social media and great stories about helping others. These stories are wonderful examples of how our community is making the world a better place. I am often reminded of how important simple, everyday acts of gratitude and kindness make a difference in our lives and the lives of our children. Here are a few ways we can encourage our children to show gratitude daily.
1. Gratitude Jar
During November, ask your children to write down something they are thankful for and put it in a Gratitude Jar. This can be as simple as an old glass vase or empty pickle jar. Have your children decorate it and make it their own.
At Thanksgiving, pull out a few slips of paper and read what is written. It can be lengthy or short, a brief description or one word. For example, they may be thankful for household pets or the delicious meal you cooked. It doesn’t matter what it is. Cultivating the habit of being purposefully thankful for the small things in life will help children during difficult times. This activity can be done all year long. Keep the jar on the kitchen counter throughout the year and have your children add to it. Once a week or month, pull out a few examples to share around the dinner table as a way to promote the idea of gratitude.
2. Giving Back Through Volunteering
There is nothing quite as special as doing something for someone without expecting anything in return. In this day and age, that is not a regular occurrence so we may need to illustrate that by volunteering. Take your kids to the local food pantry or a soup kitchen where they can help cook and serve the needy. Ring the bell for the Salvation Army. Collect toys for an organization supporting children who otherwise wouldn’t receive any gifts. Call area non-profit organizations to understand the needs and how to help. Don’t try to overdo it. Choose a charity that is close to your heart or has some meaning to you and your family. It will make the volunteer hours even more special.
More importantly, don’t stop the practice of volunteering after the holidays. Try to schedule other times to volunteer throughout the year. Many churches have specific organizations they support where you can start for ideas. Explore ways to plug your family into the needs around Augusta’s River Region and commit to help on a regular basis.
3. Focus on the Positive
Everyone understands the common expression of the glass half-full. It is so important to focus on the positives in life, especially in front of children. It is easy to see the bad in situations, but shifting to extract positives in all circumstances will help your children understand the choice of making lemonade when life hands them lemons.
If your child is disappointed about something at school, allow him to complain or be sad but then try to find something positive from it. Take time to talk through the issue to help him figure out how to handle it. After the issue has been resolved or is in the past, take time to look for something good that may have resulted from it.
4. Play the ABC Game of Gratitude
Former teacher, author and freelance writer @https://kiddoblogger.com, Tania Cowling suggests playing a game of gratitude using the alphabet. This can be used as a meaningful and fun conversation starter around the dinner table or at the Thanksgiving meal. It’s simple— go around the table and name something or someone you are thankful for using the alphabet as a guide. The first person would have to find something using the letter A for which they are thankful. It could be the appliances that helped cook the food or the apple pie they will eat for dessert. The next person would find something they are thankful for that begins with B, and so on.
5. A Simple Thank You
I believe when it comes to the holidays, we all enjoy the giving spirit and try to do things to help those less fortunate than ourselves. This is wonderful, but I also believe just a simple thank you to those who do things for us regularly might be another way to show gratitude this time of year.
Write a note to someone at church who goes above and beyond doing a particular service, have your child write a word of thanks to their teacher or school employee, put a small token of gratitude in your mailbox for the mail carrier, or have a treat on hand to give to the UPS driver when he comes to deliver a package. Little things offered with a smile and a personal thank you will be appreciated for a long time to come.
As always, lead by example. Take a look at what you do to thank others or show gratitude. Do you thank your husband or wife when they make the coffee the night before, drive the kids to soccer practice, or go grocery shopping for the family? Take time to say thank you, and make sure your kids are within earshot!
This article appears in the November 2019 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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