practice-gratitudeAs Thanksgiving approaches, our thoughts naturally turn to gratitude—even preschoolers can understand the concept of giving thanks if shared in an age-appropriate way. And there are benefits to doing so.

According to Today News, Greater Good Science Center research indicates that gratitude blocks toxic emotions and allows us to “celebrate the present,” while making us more stress-resistant with a higher sense of self-worth. Meanwhile, Huffington Post cites research that shows practicing gratitude can increase happiness by 25 percent, and help people have greater senses of empathy and optimism. Children who practice gratitude have more positive attitudes about both school and family.

Moreover, gratitude provides perspective, allowing even children to see how many opportunities and privileges they actually have. “When kids recognize that the things they own and the opportunities they have come from someone other than themselves, it helps them develop a healthy understanding of how interdependent we all are—and they may be more inclined to treat others with genuine respect.”

How do you cultivate gratitude in your own children?

First, regardless of your child’s age, be a role model. As Greater Good points out, children want to be like us and our actions provide the blueprint for their lives. “Expressing gratitude through words, writing, and small gifts or acts of reciprocity are all ways to teach children how to become grateful. Doing this will help make your appreciation for the goodness in your life more public, showing your kids that blessings abound and that being thankful is a valued attitude.”

So practice gratitude throughout the day, including letting your children know how much you appreciate them. Be specific about why. Use excellent manners, including a liberal use of “thank you” and encourage them to be polite and to give back to others, whenever possible. Here are more age-appropriate specifics.

Preschoolers and Gratitude

At this age, it’s important to instill the importance of saying thanks verbally, and in writing, when appropriate. Today News suggests that your preschooler role-play saying thanks to a favorite stuffed animal and to write a thank you note (or create a thank you picture) to send within 24 hours of receiving a gift. At night, ask what three things made your preschooler grateful that day.

Elementary School Children and Gratitude

Today News says that by this age, your child can “reach out to others in meaningful ways. They’re old enough to make a real difference, even if it’s a small one. Not only will they feel good about what they can do, but helping others will foster a sense of appreciation for the people, experiences and things they value in their own lives.” He or she can think bigger picture by now; so, on his or her fifth birthday, ask for five things that made him or her feel grateful that year. Tenth birthday? List 10 things.

Finally, here is a Pinterest board that shares suggestions on how to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. We encourage you to explore these ideas and implement the ones that make sense for your family.

Looking for more ways to enrich your child’s learning and life? Horizon Education Center provides affordable quality care including educational and enrichment opportunities for children in the following Northeast Ohio locations.

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