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How to teach your kids about gratitude

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father and daughter rolling dough
How to teach your kids about gratitude

Gratitude can feel like a big concept for kids to learn—and an even bigger challenge for caregivers to teach. It doesn’t have to be tricky, though. Use these tips from Gundersen integrated primary care pediatric psychologist Allison Allmon Dixson, PhD, to help your child understand and express thankfulness year-round.  

Model gratitude

Little kids are like sponges. They’re constantly absorbing what the adults in their lives say and do. Show them what gratitude can look and sound like by saying thank you to those around you—including to your kids. You can even challenge yourself to point out 10 things that you’re thankful your kids did today or that you appreciate about them. Being surrounded by so much gratitude will help your kids understand the concept, notice when they feel grateful, and, eventually, express thankfulness. 

Create opportunities for gratitude 

Kids need space to practice gratitude. Whether it’s during a bedtime routine or at the dinner table, encourage everyone to talk about things they appreciate. This can help prioritize gratitude in your home. Research shows that writing things down can solidify the practice even more. You can get creative to make it fun, too. For example, add a seasonal element to your family’s gratitude practice. In the fall, have your family write things that they’re grateful for on a pumpkin and read them weekly. In the winter, this could look like writing ideas on small pieces of paper and hanging them on a little tree.   

If you’re able to, incorporate these ideas into activities your family already enjoys. For example, engage in a gratitude rampage, where you take turns listing everything you are grateful for during a period of time (while getting dressed in the morning or during your drive to school) or an activity (during a hike).  

Pick a charity or volunteer activity and get involved 

Giving back is time well spent and well modeled for your kids. Not only does it create opportunities for kids to experience the feel-good emotions that volunteering evokes, but it also opens doors to talk about those feelings. Volunteering or donating to a charity can help show children how the holidays are about a lot more than presents.  

Talk about gratitude

More than anything, when you see someone express gratitude or when you feel grateful, talk about it with your kids. This keeps gratitude top of mind, and it helps kids understand the concept and its importance. The more we look for gratitude, the more we see it. Adults and kids alike. 

Learn more about the health benefits of practicing gratitude

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