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Teaching Moment: Gratitude at the Holidays

Friday, December 11, 2015 8:28 AM

To many, the holiday season means spending quality time with family, catching up with old friends and exchanging gifts. Unfortunately, the meaning of the holidays can get lost in translation, especially for children, as things like making wish lists and opening presents become the priority. As adults, we know how important it is to stop and say thank you and to express gratitude toward others. But how do we instill these same values in our children?

Sharon Robinson, MD, Pediatrician at NorthShore, shares tips for helping kids understand the importance of expressing gratitude during the holidays:

  • Role play. Use a teddy bear or another stuffed animal to help kids practice saying “thank you” after receiving or opening a gift. Show them a few examples first and then ask the kids to participate afterwards. Practice makes perfect!
  • Set an example. Kids often learn by example and their best example is their parents. There are many opportunities for us to model gratitude in front of our children throughout the day. Examples of these interactions vary from the barista at your favorite coffee shop, to the delivery man at home, the cashier at the grocery store and more.
  • Turn moments into teaching moments. Instead of lecturing children about lessons, take real life situations and use them as teaching aids. If someone holds the door open for you as you enter the store, be sure to use that exchange to show kids how to express gratitude instead of telling them this is when and why we say thank you. For children, seeing first-hand experiences often are the lessons that are more likely to stick.
  • Manage gift expectations. Gift advertisements are in full force during the holidays. When your kids compile a wish list, ask them to rank the gifts they long for. Then set a limit – whether that is a dollar amount or quantity. Ask extended family to limit the amount of gifts each kid receives as well.
  • Send thank you notes. This will help reinforce different ways kids can say thank you, to express that they appreciate the thought behind the gift and to brighten the recipient’s day. Make sure the kids write it themselves, so they can benefit in the full experience.

How did you talk to your kids about gratitude?