A few days ago, I received a letter from one of my twins’ teachers thanking all the parents for attending the latest Parent-Teacher Conference. In the letter, she proposed that in order for our kids to “practice good manners and make others feel appreciated” we should teach them to be thankful; thankful for those who help us, thankful for our family, thankful for our teachers, and thankful for what we receive.
I have also been thinking of what I could do to show my respect and gratitude to those who day by day make my life a bit better and a bit easier, so I am planning on either cooking a meal for them or giving them something they would like. Gratitude has been conceptualized by some as a personality trait, and has also been linked to healthy behavior and happiness. Some studies show correlation between gratitude and overall wellbeing, positive emotions, joy, less anxiety, less depression and… guess what? Some studies suggest a link between gratitude, healthy eating behavior and exercise! So why not take advantage of the holidays to boost our gratefulness and our kids’?
I have been asked, though, why is it that I want to that with them when they are still very young to understand? Even if they don’t understand yet (although I think they do), this is a tradition I want to create in my family and that I hope they’ll keep when they are older, and the sooner I start, the better. I believe we as parents are their mirror reflection, and anything we do they will imitate.
On the other hand, the idea that was proposed to me by Leon’s teacher Miss Tatiana Del Rey is the following: When the kids receive their gifts, they could make a thank-you card before using their presents, so they understand the idea of appreciating what was given to them. All gifts, from the smallest to the biggest, have come from someone that loves them, and thereby thanking them for the gesture is a way of valuing people more than the gift. They should also be constantly reminded about the importance and value of the people that surround them and help them day by day.
"Gratitude towards them should be constantly encouraged."
Another idea that came to me was to ask my kids, right after they open their gifts, to pick one to donate to a less privileged kid. This is also a way of teaching them about how there are people that are not as lucky as some of us, and that simple actions, such as donating, can have a nice impact in someone’s life.
If you have older kids, a volunteering experience could be a good idea of expressing gratitude towards what they have, and channel it by helping others. There are several volunteer opportunities, such as community welfare, animal welfare, environmental awareness, special need assistance, among others. Which one do you picture your kid in? Voluntarism has shown to enhance self-esteem, team work and social interaction. You might find a non-profit organization that receives both children and adults as volunteers, and you could have the volunteering experience together! If your kids are still too young to volunteer, such as mine, you can look for a place to do it yourself and maybe take them to see what you are doing or talk to them about the experience afterwards. Kids are always following our example, and they will most likely do what they see us doing.