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10 ways to foster gratitude in our children this November

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The Harvard Health article, "Giving thanks can make you happier” reports that according to research findings, people who practice gratitude are happier. “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” Gratitude is a thankful outlook on life and its very expression tends to be action-oriented.

Here are 10 ways to help foster a spirit of gratitude in your children.

1. At the onset of the month of November, present your child with a “Thanksgiving Notebook” to daily record what they’re thankful for.

2. On long narrow strips of paper, have your child name something they’re grateful for which begins with each letter of their name, assembling these on the refrigerator to create a Thanksgiving display. Example: Sam = S: soccer; A: animals; M: mom.

3. Write “Thank-you” letters to family members, such as grandparents, or close friends, expressing thanks for them. Require specificity, such as: “I’m thankful for you because you tell funny jokes and make me laugh.”

4. On Thanksgiving Day, call family or close family friends whose presence you missed around the dinner table. Hand the phone to your child and let them offer their thoughts about why they miss them.

5. Weather conditions can be tough in November. If it’s grim and kids are complaining while getting ready for school, counter positively by asking your kiddos to talk about what’s good about rain, about sleet, about gray skies, for example. Extend this exercise to other common sources of grumbling.

6. Help them identify one child and one teacher at school who could use a boost of encouragement. Have your child create Thanksgiving cards which precisely explains why they’re thankful to have this person in their life. Especially urge artistic kids to illustrate the card’s message.

7. Read books about thankfulness such as Last Stop On Market Street, Crenshaw and I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World. Refugee and James Patterson’s Homeroom Diaries are good selections for tweens/teens.

8. Watch movies filled with messages of gratitude like A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, Up and Veggie Tales Madame Blueberry. For older kids, consider Lion and Life is Beautiful.

9. Memorize a quote about gratitude which your child can recite on Thanksgiving around the dinner table. Let them surf sites like Brainy Quotes or to pick out their perfect quote to memorize, such as these:

  • Maya Angelou: This a wonderful day. I've never seen this one before.
  • Aesop: Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.
  • A.A. Milne: Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.
  • Cicero: Gratitude is not only the greatest of all virtues, but the parent of all the others.
  • Oprah Winfrey: Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.

10. Practice kindness: Declare November your family’s month to serve low-income residents in your area. When your kids are serving meals at a soup kitchen or reading to kids at a women's shelter, they’ll more readily recognize the gifts in their own life and be able to “count their blessings.”

Kathryn Streeter’s writing has appeared in publications including The Washington Post, The Week and Austin American-Statesman. Find her on Twitter, @streeterkathryn.

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