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Tips for Teaching Kids How to Be Grateful

This article is sponsored by Investors Bank.

Teaching by example and doing something positive for the community can help raise kids who give back to those in need. It also helps young minds become more appreciative of what they have. There’s no better time to educate little learners about what it means to be grateful than during Thanksgiving, a holiday already dedicated to giving thanks, appreciating what you have and conveying a message of togetherness.
The benefits can be long-lasting; in fact, a study done by the American Psychological Association found that grateful teens are also more likely to be happy, hopeful and well-behaved at school. Plus, understanding these concepts early can boost a child’s confidence, happiness and self-worth. Along with the added benefit of exposing kids to new people and new skills, giving back to the community also teaches them to be selfless.

Of course, everyone is short on time and our to-do lists are a mile long this time of year. Luckily, community service doesn’t have to be time-consuming to make a difference. What’s most important is that these experiences offer a chance for you to bond with your kids as you give back, on your own terms. Every action, no matter how small it may seem, goes a long way. Here are some ways to promote the giving spirit in your family this season.

Discuss Wants Versus Needs

Have kids create a list (those that can should write it down themselves, but parents can help younger ones) of what they want and what they need. Then go over it together, discussing what they actually need and what they can do without. Do they really need 10 Nintendo games, or is that more of a want? How about those 20 Shopkins they requested? A discussion about the difference between wants and needs can make them realize the silliness of some of their frequent “demands.”

Go Grassroots

Collect canned goods, and other nonperishable items, and donate them to a food bank; draw some pictures and bring them to a hospital in town; set up a lemonade stand and donate the proceeds to your favorite cause. Going back to basics can do some good both locally and globally, while also allowing kids to be an active participant in creating something for others. The sense of accomplishment and positive feeling they’ll begin to associate with being generous  will reinforce the benefits of being selfless.

Adopt a Family

Many organizations let you adopt a family for the holidays. In doing so, you’re given a list of what items a family needs, whether it be clothing, grocery store gift cards, toys or something else. Involving your kids in the adoption by having them choose what female scarf to purchase, or which Barbie to buy at the toy store, will help them be grateful for what they have and feel good about helping someone who is less fortunate.

Keep it Simple

Even the most basic actions can teach kids the art of doing good. Encourage kids to share with their siblings—without squabbling; make birthday cards for friends; bake a cake or cookies for a neighbor, just because you feel like it. The important lesson here is to teach kids to help others first without expecting something in return.

Be a Good Role Model

Setting a positive example is key. Give kids a little push to be do-gooders; remember that most won’t be altruistic on their own. This should go beyond something they do to boost their college applications or to fulfill a school requirement. Take your daughter with you as you drop off old clothing at the Salvation Army. Have your son serve a meal with you at the local homeless shelter. It’s up to parents to show kids how they can help better the world.

Talk About What You’re Grateful For

Most kids need to learn to appreciate what they have, since they may be guilty of complaining that everyone else has something they don’t. One way this can be done is to teach kids to say “thank you.” School-aged kids should thank coaches after soccer practice, but even your little ones can verbally thank you for all you do (helping clean up toys after playing, putting on their favorite cartoon, etc.).

Involve Them in the Donations

Sometimes we make an online donation or put money in a jar at a store. You’re doing a good deed, but kids might not understand what’s happening here. To make your donation more meaningful to them, let them suggest what causes your family supports. They’ll be more excited to donate to a cause reflective of their interests. Maybe animal lovers want to help a local pet shelter, while outdoorsy kids want to give to an environmental organization. Encourage them to donate some of their allowance to the cause. You can even promise to match every dollar they donate. Explain how the money they’re donating will make a difference, so they better understand the importance of their contribution.