Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by PSECU, a Pennsylvania-based credit union.
As an adult, you may know how lucky you are for what you have. You have worked hard for your career and perhaps put your heart on the line for someone you loved. And you’ve given life to your children — a gift that’s perhaps the best life has to offer.
So, it’s understandably easy for you to feel gratitude for the life you have. And you want your children to approach their lives with the same thankful outlook. Without as many experiences as you have, they might not have an inherent sense of gratitude. But you can still foster such a sentiment, and it’ll be rewarding for both of you.
Here’s how to do it.
Children will mimic their parents’ behaviours, whether we like it or not. This starts early on — little girls tend to imitate their mothers, while boys want to be like their dads. And by the time they reach 15 months, kids have the physical capacity to mimic the adults around them.
So, when you make a point to express your gratitude for what you have, your children will start to do the same. With time, those expressions will turn into true feelings of thankfulness as they grasp what it is they’re saying.
Always begin with “thank you” — your children can easily make the phrase part of their vernacular. Be sure to explain why we say it, too, beyond the fact that it’s “polite.”
A new cultural experience opens your child’s eyes in more ways than one. Sure, they will learn some new customs and perhaps get to know a corner of their hometown — or the world — that they never knew existed. On top of that, though, such experiences provide perspective. Not only will kids gain respect for other people’s customs and beliefs, but they’ll also look at their own traditions and lifestyle with a newfound appreciation.
Whether we like it or not, much of what we have comes from the money we make and spend. You can engender gratitude in your children by helping them to understand the true value of money. The earlier you start with this, the better. Kids as young as three can start to take their gifted money or allowance cash and separate it into banks. Encourage them to put money away for spending, saving and donating.
Above, we touched on the idea of donating a bit of your child’s money to a worthy cause. Giving to others, in general, helps kids build gratitude for what they have. It doesn’t necessarily have to be money, either. Perhaps your children can go through their closets once a season to find clothes and toys they no longer use. Explain to them that they’re helping someone less fortunate than they are. For many children, this inspires them to give more — and better understand how lucky they are to be where they are.
To that end, you might bring your teenage children to an event where they can volunteer their time to help those in need. Meeting such gracious people will only teach your children to mirror their sentiments.
Self-reflections help people of all ages to grow and improve themselves. You can use this tool to help your children improve their gratitude, too.
One of the many ways to stoke self-reflection is to engage in a conversation with your child at the end of the day. Perhaps you can sit with them before they go to bed and talk about the day they’ve had. Ask them to outline the moments they liked best — the ones for which they feel the most grateful. You can also use this time to learn more about your child’s day in general. Perhaps they had a sad or uncomfortable moment at school, too, or witnessed somebody else experience one.
Opening a dialogue with your child can keep you informed and help them become more thankful, to boot.
Finally, if you want to hear your child’s feelings, you must be open to accepting that they might not always feel how you expect them to. Don’t pressure them to feel a certain way about something when their experience was something different. Sometimes, we can cultivate gratitude for a situation after we process the initial emotions — fear, anger, sadness, etc.
With your guidance, your children can come to the same understanding of life’s most confounding events. But you must be open to hearing them in the first place. Without that promise made, you’ll have a hard time inspiring your kids to open up to you.
Gratitude comes in many forms, and we feel it at different times over the course of our lives. With the right guidance, your kids will be able to recognize their own gracious feelings and express them to you and others. With that, they will become better people with greater perspective on their world — and as a parent, that’s all you could hope to provide for them.