It is the season of thanksgiving and in a society generally felt to be overly entitled it falls on parents (including dads) to teach their children about gratitude. Today I've tried to gather some of my thoughts around ideas and ways we can help our kids show a little more thanks.
Make a Family Donation
In your area there is no doubt some type of rescue mission or food kitchen where less fortunate people can go to get a warm meal or other necessary resources. Work together as a family to decide how you can donate your time or other resources to help those types of organizations. Depending on the age of your children they may have their own money or allowance that they would feel comfortable donating. You could also take time together as a family to volunteer at a non-profit organization. If your children are really too young for either donating or volunteering you can at least talk to them about the importance of donating time and resources to those in the community who are less fortunate.
Work on A Fun Thanks Craft
We do have young children in my home and there are three craft ideas floating around the house. First, and perhaps my favorite, is a gratitude tree. This is a craft idea from my wife who builds a tree on the wall with brown paper. Each day the kids write something they are grateful for on a paper cutout leaf and tape it to the wall/tree.
This year we also made the kids Gratitude Journals. These journals are a place where the kids can write or draw things they are grateful for. During the month of November we try to prompt the kids to recognize things they are grateful for during the natural course of our day.
Lastly you can of course always take a family night to write/draw thank you cards to various people the kids may want to show gratitude to. This often includes school teachers, coaches, friends, and extended family.
Put Things in Perspective
For children, often their reality consists of their immediate surroundings. It can be very difficult to fully understand the nature of how unfortunate some people in the world really are. When their world sometimes falls apart when they don't get to go to the zoo or when they don't get the food or treat they want (can you tell my kids are younger), how can we help them understand how blessed they really are?
Sometimes those visits to local shelters or missions is the trick to putting things in perspective. I have found that telling bedtime stories can also be effective. Stories can be about rabbits (or other animals) who have everything they need and wish they had more when they happen upon a family of rabbits who doesn't have a place to live or food to eat. If your children are older you may consider a “third world country” day in your home. During that day you pretend that you are a family leaving in a third world country (or a family who hasn't had a job or income in over a year). This means simpler meals and no modern conveniences like TV, phones, etc. This quickly puts things into perspective and makes an immediate impact on the feelings of gratitude and entitlement.
Share your feelings below about how we can teach our children about gratitude.