Gratitude manifests itself in all forms, amounts, and is celebrated year-round—especially during the holiday season. The holidays represent not just a season decorated with splendor and charm, but it is a time for joy, togetherness and celebration. The holidays are both the most wonderful time of the year and a great opportunity to teach our kiddos the beautiful nature of gratitude.
In a world where life can feel heavy and distractions may appear overwhelming, fostering a sense of thankfulness in kids can help them appreciate even the smallest blessings and grow into empathetic individuals. So, let's embark on a journey to raise thankful kids and cultivate gratitude during this incredibly special time of the year—and always.
The Power of Role Modeling
When was the last time you openly expressed being thankful for something around others? If you realize that it’s not very often—don’t worry because you are far from alone! Life gets busy, chaotic, and exhausting as parents (trust us, we understand!) and it’s easy to not share what we are thinking or feeling in a given moment. While it makes sense to keep certain things to yourself (giving some serious side eye to those rough day moments), expressing gratitude—even for the small joys in life—shouldn’t be one of them.
Kiddos look to their parents as their guiding light—and one of the simplest and easiest ways to teach them gratitude is to model it ourselves. Express your own gratitude regularly by saying "thank you" when someone helps you or simply by sharing what you're grateful for during meals or bedtime conversations. An even easier approach is to just take a pause in those small yet beautiful moments and express whatever is in your heart at that time. If you’re on a walk with your kids, talk about why you’re having so much with them or share with your little ones how excited and grateful you are to be able to bring healthy food home during your next grocery run.
Make a Thankful Tree or Gratitude Jar
If you and the kiddos are in a DIY/crafty mood, try a thankful tree or gratitude jar together! You can make one of these any time of the year, but making one for the holidays can help make it extra special. For a thankful tree, you can use regular craft materials or if you love going on walks with your kids, try using real twigs and leaves to make a beautiful centerpiece to grace the table for all of your holiday dining! If you’d like to start a gratitude jar, to get those gratitude notes rolling in! You can do this as a family activity, and then read the notes at the end of the year. It's a lovely way to reflect on the good times and appreciate the little things.
Volunteer & Give Back
The holiday season is a perfect time to teach children about the importance of giving back and there are many organizations that need extra help during this busy time of the year. Reach out to your local Salvation Army, Meals on Wheels, or hospice organizations and ask about volunteer opportunities. Check with children’s hospitals to ask if they might accept cards for patients or if they may be hosting a toy drive. Last but certainly not least, search and explore local food pantries or soup kitchens to see if volunteer help is needed. No matter where you and your family decide to give back to the community, these experiences will certainly have a profound impact on both your kiddos and yourself.
DIY Thank You Cards
A handwritten letter or note is truly a timeless gesture—and one that will brighten anyone’s day. Express gratitude and encourage your kids to create thank-you cards for family, friends, and teachers. If you just hosted a holiday or birthday party, help your kiddos fill in the name of the person they’d like to thank and the gift they are thanking them for. Even though technology makes it convenient to send thank-you’s in a split second, taking the time to slow down and prepare a handwritten note is a beautiful way for kiddos to express both their creativity and appreciation for the generosity of others.
Read Books About Gratitude
Another fantastic and simple way to frame larger, more abstract concepts for your kiddos is to read books centered around those topics. Whether it’s during your bedtime routine or during some daytime reading, there are many wonderful children's books in stores and at your local public library that focus on gratitude and appreciation for your family to check out. Reading these stories together can spark meaningful discussions and help kiddos connect with the concept of thankfulness on a deeper level.
Focus on the Silver Lining
For both adults and kiddos alike, focusing on the good that can come out from a difficult situation can be tough (we’ve been there!) but embracing the beautiful complexity of emotions is a part of growing up. It also goes back to our earlier tip on openly expressing how and what you are grateful for in a given moment. The next time you find yourself or your kiddo dealing with a difficult situation, start a dialogue that can help your child discover the potential silver lining. Ask questions like "What's something good that could come from something hard like this?" or simply be open about feeling both positive and negative feelings at the same time. By regularly engaging your kiddo in this type of conversation, they will start to see that there’s a lot to be grateful for—even on the hard days.
Raising thankful kids and cultivating gratitude is a year-round activity and not one that’s limited to the holiday season. By incorporating these practices into your family's daily routines and holiday traditions, you can help your children develop a lasting appreciation for the good things in life. Although understanding gratitude is essentially a lifelong learning process, we hope that you will find these tips helpful in connecting with your kiddos in both a gentle and relatable way. And always remember—you’re doing an incredible job as is so keep up the great work!
Wishing you and your family a season filled with love, togetherness, and boundless gratitude!