With pumpkin spice in the air, scarves wrapped around our necks, and boots on our feet, we feel the crispness of fall and sense a change in season. As we tend to move more inside, I begin to reflect on the past few months and get ready to spend time teaching my kids about giving thanks.
How to Explain Gratitude to a Child
Trying to explain gratitude to kids can seem like a difficult task. How do you put into words what we hope an attitude of the heart is?
We teach our kids when they are young to say thank you and give hugs for gifts. We talk to them about being happy for what they are given and to keep their heart content.
As I teach them the heart of gratitude I am also teaching them how to receive and give with a gracious humble posture. When I explain this to my child, it is easily summed up in this
Gratitude is stopping to notice and appreciate the things that we often take for granted.
Why Gratitude is so Powerful
The heart of gratitude is a powerful positive emotion. It can change our rocky rough day into one that brings joy and peace. As I teach my kids about gratitude, I am constantly amazed at the many ways they learn to find joy in the simple things.
A few years ago, during an especially difficult time for my family, we began journaling 5 things we were grateful for each day. This can be a hard task for some children, but there are ways to build confidence that will make this easier. You can read some tips for this here.
Rather than focusing on the “hard”, we were able to find the blessings in the rain. We saw the little ways we could find happiness and we were able to stop complaining and smile. Our sense of dread for the next day turned into a season of reflection and hope.
What Are Some Examples of Gratitude
As mentioned above, gratitude is taking time to notice what we have been given. Kids often overlook the little things that they have. However, when faced with a friend that doesn’t have the same-they may realized how grateful they can be.
For example, simple blessings like home, clothing, and food are all ways we can point out that we can be grateful. Special treats to eat, heading to a movie, or a quiet night at home hearing a story are ways that we can teach kids to be grateful. When we take the focus off of them internally and have them focusing externally, we begin to practice gratitude.
How to Practice Gratitude
As the saying goes, “there are some many things to be thankful for”. But saying these things and recognizing them for what they really are can be tricky. If you are a naturally cynical person (think Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh), there may always be a bent in your gratitude. If you are a exuberant person (think Tigger in Winnie the Pooh) it can feel fake.
One of my favorites is with a Thankful Tree. Kids enjoy seeing the visual representation of what they are thankful for. With each leaf, piece of a paper, or addition you can add things you are thankful for. This larger tree and this simpler tree may give you an idea for your showing your kids ways to be grateful.
Another way you can teach your kids how to show gratitude is to find something as a family that will be a visual representation. In ancient times people would use rocks to remember the blessings of God. We have a flowerbed that we have written single words on various rocks and placed there for our kids to remember the blessings. Maybe for you it would be easier to write blessings on a attic rafter, create a fancy notebook, or document it with pictures on your phone.
A final way to encourage kids with gratitude is to challenge yourself for a certain period of time to make a list.
Ann Voskamp created a beautiful book called One Thousand Gifts which has shaped the way I look at gratitude and teaching it to my children. Her method is to create a list of blessings each day and reflect on these. It is a practice that will dramatically change the way you see life around you and that will help you teach this to your kids.
My prayer for you in reading this is that you will find ways to teach your kids the power of gratitude. It is a heart posture that changes the way we approach life and helps us find the beauty and the grace that each day brings.
Download this free five day gratitude challenge here to do with your kids and unwrap the beauty of being grateful!!