Counselor Corner - Saying "Thank you" and Meaning It

By: Jill Miller Villanova Counseling Intern - Montgomery Elementary

Many parents and guardians teach their children to say, "thank you", however many do not teach them to actually mean it. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, this is the perfect time of year to teach your child what being thankful truly means. Being thankful means appreciating the people and things around you, and showing gratitude. In two separate studies on gratitude, it was shown that people who had more gratitude were significantly happier (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). If we can teach our children to be grateful and appreciative of what they have, they may lead happier lives. Here are a few tips on ways to teach your child to be grateful (Lianos, 2010).

Giving and Receiving a gift: When your child receives a gift, explain to them that the person who gave them the gift put a lot of thought into picking out the gift. They thought about the child's likes and dislikes, and chose something that they felt the child would enjoy. You can explain that gifts are special, and if they are getting a gift it is for a special reason. Have them write a thank you note. You can use the same method when buying a gift for someone else. Have your child think about what the person might like and then go with you to help to pick out the gift.

Exposure and being a role model: Talk to your child about those less fortunate. If they see a homeless person, ask them where they think that person sleeps, eats, or bathes. Explain to them that they are very fortunate to be able to live comfortably without any worries. Some activities you can do with your child are taking them to a soup kitchen, or having them donate to charities. At the soup kitchen, have your child aid you in activities. With donations, have your whole family go through clothes and toys that they no longer wear or play with. Explain to them that they are very fortunate to have all of these unneeded things, and that giving them to people in need is a very respectful and helpful thing to do. Explain to them that the person who will receive their things will be very thankful for their donations.

A nighttime activity: The easiest thing you can do with your child is talk to them about being thankful. While sitting down for dinner with the family, ask each member one thing that happened that day that they are thankful for. Some examples could be, getting a good grade on an assignment, the friend that held a door for them, a gift they were given, or the meal they are eating. Then, ask them why they are grateful for that. You could discuss how they are very lucky to have the resources to help them receive the thing for which they are grateful.

There are multiple benefits to doing these activities with your child. It will teach your child to be grateful, and as stated before, being grateful leads to being happy. Furthermore, if you do these activities as a family, it will bring you closer together. Spending time with your family and sharing these happy times will help to create a close, loving, caring, and empathetic bond that can carry over to all aspects of your child life. May you have a Happy Thanksgiving, everyday!

Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-38

Lianos, Marisa. (2010). Teaching Kids To Be Thankful. Amotherworld: A lifestyle and parenting magazines for moms.

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