Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is around the corner and in schools many kids are learning about the history behind the harvest and this particular celebration and it is the time of year we ask everyone to think about what they are thankful for.  Which is strange because being thankful is something we should be working on year round.  We know that people are happier and more willing to help and empathize with others when they regularly take part in activities that help them build gratitude (or thanks) in their lives.  In this vein, I am going to suggest that this Thanksgiving we don’t just see it as a once-a-year time to give thanks, but use it as the catalyst to start a year-long time of giving thanks.  Whether at home or in the classroom, these thanks-giving activities will help children realize what they have to be grateful for and how to help others.

A Gratitude Journal

No matter the age, all children can start their own gratitude journal.  Although the versions recommended for adults tend to suggest it should be done daily, with younger children something weekly would be enough to help build the idea of thanks into their living.  Picking one day a week (if in class, perhaps a Friday so children can think of the entire week) in which children speak about the things they are thankful for, noting them in a book either by writing or drawing (depending on skill) is an activity that gets kids thinking about things in a positive mindset.

Thank You Notes

Every week, have your child pick an individual they are thankful for and help them write a letter to them to say thank you.  Older kids will be able to write their own while younger children will often need some help; however, the act of saying thank you to a given individual can be very powerful.  Not only does it help the child think about ways in which other people help them, but it helps build up the relationship as everyone enjoys hearing how much they are appreciated.  In a classroom setting, this is an ideal time to make sure kids send letters to each member of the class which can help them view each other in a positive light and build friendships where they may not exist regularly.

Asking For Help

I know this may sound weird, but we are often so focused on teaching our children to be wholly independent, that we forget to help them learn how to appreciate that others can and will help us, and when they do, we can feel a deep sense of gratitude and thanks.  One way to help children learn how to ask for help and appreciate the help they do get is to ensure they have opportunities to take part in activities that require more than one person.  It could be building something just a bit beyond them (or too big for one person), it could be learning how to do something another child knows how to do, it could be anything you think of.  One of the key things is to ensure the child gets help from someone other than a parent or teacher.  Why?  Because these are the two people they are used to asking for help and don’t always feel grateful as it’s our jobs to help the children and they do seem to realize that.  Once children do ask for help and receive it, it is important to talk about the experience with them so they can understand how to appreciate what other people do to help us out.


However you decide to do it, helping your child learn the art of thanks or gratitude is a skill that will serve them well for years to come.  The earlier they learn how to value what they have and the people around them, the happier they will be.

By Tracy Cassels

October 05, 2015