Use Thanksgiving to Teach Children About Gratitude

Thanksgiving is the perfect holiday to talk to children about the importance of giving back and teach social-emotional learning concepts like gratitude and empathy.

The Power of Gratitude

Did you know that being grateful leads to positive health outcomes for kids? As a holiday dedicated towards showing gratitude, parents can use Thanksgiving to talk with your children about what gratitude means and how to show it to others.

Research from Dr. Robert Emmons has shown that practicing intentional gratitude has many different benefits for children, including improved physical and mental health, more positive feelings toward schools and better relationships with their families. Another study looked into the idea of counting blessings with young children and the results showed that there is a positive correlation between gratitude and satisfaction with school. This research shows that by being intentionally and actively grateful, children (and their parents!) become happier and more satisfied. So how can you encourage gratitude in your own family?

Activities to Encourage Intentional Gratitude

A good way to encourage intentional gratitude among your children is to keep a gratitude journal. Dr. Emmons’ research has shown that sitting down and thinking out specific things to be grateful for leads to the greatest benefits. Encourage your children to take a notebook and write three things they are grateful for every day during the week of Thanksgiving. Once the holiday is over, keep the tradition going!

For children who are too young to write, you can have them draw a picture of someone or something they are grateful for.

Being intentionally grateful helps children practice empathy, which is critical for their social and emotional development. Use the stories of Thanksgiving to get your children to think about the things they have that the pilgrims didn’t have, and talk about how Native Americans showed empathy for the plight of the pilgrims by sharing what they had.

Ask your children how someone has shown them empathy by sharing something or helping them when they needed it. Encourage your children during the week of Thanksgiving to make an effort to show their gratitude by doing something kind for someone else. Some examples include bringing a special drawing to their teacher or going out of their way to sit with someone who normally sits alone during lunch.

For more ideas of what you can do to instill gratitude and empathy in your children, check out some of our other parenting tips, such as this one about Random Acts of Kindness.

How will you talk about gratitude with your children this Thanksgiving? Let us know by tweeting us @PCAAmerica or by leaving a comment on our Facebook page!

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