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Toddler Talk: Teaching Thankfulness

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There are two quotes I hold dear when it comes to thankfulness and gratitude. The first is "In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful but the gratefulness that makes us happy," by Albert Clarke. And the second is "Gratitude begins at home." I think the second is more of a title to a how-to article but I believe it just the same.

Gratitude and being thankful are important values of our human existence. Gratitude takes us from lamenting for things we don't have to remembering all we do have—the abundance, the blessings, the good. Gratitude encourages us to give back and help others. Thankfulness promotes kindness and good will. As the culmination of the thankful season happens this week, here are four ways to help encourage thankfulness in your family:

Share thankfulness around the table

This is one of my favorite activities. I love hearing the things my loved ones are thankful for; it's heart-warming to listen to what has touched their hearts. It might take a few days for little ones to get the hang of it but when they do, their little eyes light up when it's time to share. This activity also takes away attention from the brussel sprouts no one wants to try. It's a win-win all the way around.

Keep a family gratitude journal

If dinner time is not the right time for your group, maybe a family gratitude journal is more conducive. Make it a bedtime ritual. After bath and brushing time, while clad in jammies and snuggled under the blankets, share things for which you are all thankful and write them down. Add in the date so you can reminisce about what you were thankful for those many years ago.

Write thank you notes

I love using a hand-written note to show my gratitude for a gift received, a kind gesture or anything really. It feels so good to send (and to receive). Encouraging children to do this helps them reflect on the kindness of others and turn those reflections into words. Older children can write their own, budding writers can fill in the blanks of a formatted phrase and the littlest can add doodles or stickers to one an adult writes. Getting them involved young allows them to understand the process which will evolve as they grow.

Offer help to those in need

Doing for others for nothing in return is an amazing value to pass on and even young children can get in on it. Take time as a family to brainstorm ways to help others in your community from the elderly neighbor next door to the local food shelf. When children help think up the ideas, they will be all the more excited to participate. Monetary gifts and donations are great, but giving of one's time is even more meaningful.

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