Tis the season to count your blessings. With Thanksgiving and the winter holidays upon us, many of us take a moment or two at this time of year to reflect upon the things for which we are grateful. But how can we convey this spirit of thankfulness to our children?
Christina Fecio, education director for Doodle Bugs! Children’s Centers, sent me some great tips for little things parents can do to help foster thankfulness in their children. Here's her advice:
Ages 1 - 2: Thankfulness is an abstract concept for toddlers, but they are certainly capable of learning about and beginning to demonstrate empathy and good manners. Model good manners, drawing attention to the fact that we are always “feeling thankful” for being surrounded by our families and friends. Good manners will draw attention to the fact that we can show friends we feel thankful and happy by being kind and polite.
Ages 3: Preschoolers have the ability to say “thank you” and know basic manners. Parents can guide conversations that encourage them to share what they are thankful for. Talk to your child about Thanksgiving and what it represents. Focus on what it means to be “thankful” and the things you are thankful for in your life. During the Thanksgiving celebration start a tradition: have each attendee finish the sentence “I am thankful for…” and write it on a paper feather. Place all the feathers on a large turkey cut-out and read the feathers aloud after it’s finished.
Ages 4-5: As children prepare for kindergarten and beyond, they are more aware of their actions and able to vocalize their emotions better than ever. Continue conversations about what it means to be thankful and things you are thankful for. Use books as a means to further articulate the thankfulness concept, such as: "Thanksgiving is for Giving Thanks" by Margaret Sutherland. Create thank you cards. Show your child how to fold a piece of paper so that the edges match. Have a conversation with him about who he is most thankful for in his life. Write down his words, exactly, and let him decorate his card.
Ages 5+: Older children can comprehend the meaning of friendship, kindness and generosity, as well as point it out when they observe it. Parents can identify fun activities to be done at home that focus on the true “gifts” of the holiday season. Update the paper chain idea from school to be focused on meaningful acts. Have a stack of colorful precut paper to be used for the loops. Whenever you or your child observe an act of kindness, thankfulness, generosity or friendship, write it on the strip and add the loop to the chain. At the end of the holidays, you’ll have a lovely chain to reflect upon.