Most people are looking forward to the food, family gatherings and gift giving that comes along with the holiday season.
Dr. William Hansen, a psychologist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, reminds parents that this is also the time of year when they should pause to say thanks and also reinforce this idea in their children.
“The holidays are universally viewed as a time of celebration, the end of a year and the beginning of a new one. It is also a time to reconnect with family and friends and give thanks,” says Dr. Hansen. “The season lends itself well to introducing and reminding adults and children about the importance of being grateful.”
In the midst of the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and all of the other celebrations, Dr. Hansen offers the following tips on how to help a child understand the concepts of thankfulness during the holidays.
• Model thankfulness to a child by using good manners and language and ask other adults in the child’s life to do the same.
• Remember to say “thank you” to people no matter how big or small their assistance to you.
• Praise the child when he shows thankfulness. When we praise grateful behaviors, children are more likely to repeat them.
• Encourage a child to help others. Explain to the child what you are doing when you contribute to a charity, collect food for the food-bank or perform other acts of giving. Use those situations to explain the needs of others to the child and remind the child that while he may not have everything he wants, he has everything he needs.
• Encourage young children to collect gently used toys or clothing and encourage older children to volunteer to help those in need. Consider doing this together.
• Remember that being thankful is not only for holiday times. Consider other opportunities for the child to acknowledge people and things he is grateful for in his life. Examples of doing this include a parent encouraging their small child to list the toys and belongings that the child is thankful for.
• Consider thank you notes. Having children write (or draw pictures) to say thank you for a gift or act of kindness is a simple way to help children develop gratitude.
This article originally appeared in the Medical News online.