Meet the Sullivans: Fostering Gratitude in Our Children

November 12, 2014

Fostering Gratitude in Our Children

There is so much to be thankful for in our lives this season. We're blessed with a large, loving family, a nice roof over our heads, a happy marriage, a safe neighborhood, our health, the list goes on and on.

I read awful stories in the news about families faced with the unimaginable, and I look at our sweet boy and I feel so so very thankful that I can shield him from the world for now.  I know it's not luck that brought us to where we are today --- there are people, friends, family, good choices, hard work and great opportunities that have helped create the life we live -- obviously not a lavish one, but definitely one to be thankful for.  I think we're very lucky.

I often wish I could tell O how lucky he is too. I want O to know that without the help and kindness of others, hard work and sacrifice we might not be so "lucky". I want him to show and feel his gratitude for others, and while he is still quite young, and won't understand the depth of what I'm trying to teach him for many years to come, there are a few ways we can start to build the foundation for gratitude now.

The pictures in this post (taken yesterday at CuriOdyssey) have little to do with fostering gratitude, but they show the sweetness in learning and exploring, which I think goes along well with learning more about our world and community, and I feel like every blog post needs pictures.

The article below the pictures is one I wrote for the San Mateo Mother's Club for our November 2014 Mom Matters newsletter on Fostering Gratitude in Young Children, so please check it out. 

Fostering Gratitude in Young Children

This is a great time of year to encourage our children to be thankful. Young children are naturally wired to put themselves first, but there are a few things we can do to foster gratitude and broaden their perspective beyond their own needs and desires.

Share Your Gratitude - Try sharing your appreciation for your family’s blessings and for other’s with your children. “It was so nice of the Smith family to help us rake the yard” or “Thank you for being so kind to your brother”. When they hear you express your thankfulness they’ll want to model you!
Create a Family Wall of Thanks -
Divide a post board or bulletin board into equal sections, one for each family member. Add pictures, notes and words for the things you are each thankful for. The visual reminder will help everyone remember their many abundant blessings.

Acknowledge Their Efforts - When you hear them thank someone (or you!), stop what you’re doing, look them in the eye and tell them how pleased you are to hear them share their appreciation. The extra attention given for their good behavior will encourage them to repeat it.

Help Them Give Back - Shop together at the grocery store for non-perishable goods and drop them off at a local food bank. Think beyond canned goods and consider including other necessities like diapers, toiletries or socks. Talk with them about how this small deed can make a big impact in someone else’s life. My son and I collect items for Operation Christmas Child ( each year in November. With their help we are able to send a shoe box filled with goodies to a child who has nothing.

Thankfulness Starts at Home - Encourage your children to write a thank you note for someone in their lives who helps them or has done something nice for them recently. The process of brainstorming who to write the note to, and what to thank them for is a great lesson in reflecting on all they have to be thankful for. It could be as simple as a “thank you”, a picture and their name. This simple activity shows them that it is important to thank the people in your lives for the things we may otherwise take for granted.

How do you show your gratitude? How do you help your children understand how fortunate they are?


Cristina said...

Love this! This is one thing that is very important to me when I have kids and I will make sure to look back at this post when the time comes!

Jessica said...

Fostering gratitude in our children is oh, so important. Thank you for bringing this up, Colleen. There are so many children today that are so entitled, and operate with such a "me, me, me" mentality. It is sad to see. And, being the loving mothers that we are - who want to give our kids everything we possibly can - we sometimes enable them in the selfish mindsets without necessarily meaning to. So it's very important to remember to teach them to be grateful too. And to give back. And to be kind to others. These are all qualities that I hope and pray that Caleb will pick up from his father and I (and reminders for me to do better myself as an example!)

hello erin said...

I love this! I so desperately want lex to be grateful for everyone and everything!

Erica Layne | Let Why Lead said...

Such a great topic! And how awesome that you're writing for the San Mateo Mother's Club!

Unknown said...

As Odette gets older, gratitude is definitely something I want to teach Odette! I loved this post and the ideas you've shared!!
XO Kelly

Jenn said...

Such a great post! We are always trying to let our kids know how blessed they are and that they need to be grateful. These are great tips to remember everyday.