Tis the season to teach our children to be thankful and give generously to others. We live in a truly blessed nation, full of security, hope and daily blessings. Being thankful and showing gratitude is not only contagious, but also has an impact on one’s overall attitude. Research is showing that this improved attitude, not only positively impacts the brain, but also gives a fresh perspective on our current status.
Ideas for teaching thankfulness are vast and easy to come across. A few resources and ideas are these. Don’t be afraid to incorporate your own gratitude and appreciation traditions. In the younger grades you can start with a simple composition book and write even a simple sentence such as: I am thankful for ______________. Older students should be able to expand on what they are thankful for and write a reason for why that item, person, or situation is a blessing to them. Whatever it is that they are thankful for in on the particular day, make sure it is specific. The more details that they can give for what they are thankful for, the more they will see the blessing that lies within. Also encourage the kids to look beyond the obvious big items (Mom, Dad, house) and look to those things that may seem small, but truly do have an impact (lunch, clothes, toys). At the end of the week, month, or season you can share with a group of students which of the blessings were their favorite or meant the most and why.
After the holiday season comes to a close is a perfect time to extend the thoughts of thankfulness. Teach your students the art of how to write a thank you letter for the gifts that they received over the holidays. Keeping the idea of thankfulness, as an ongoing journal, will give the students a keepsake of events, people, and activities that happened for years to come and foster continual gratitude for the remainder of the year. If you would like more ideas on gratitude with your students, visit: “Gratitude Activities for the Classroom,” by Vicki Zakrzewski of the Greater Good Science Center.
When we are aware of the multiple blessings we have, we are more apt to want to give generously to others. Opportunities are endless this holiday time of year, of reaching beyond ourselves and helping those less fortunate. Contacting local charities, churches, and organizations can help students reach out to other children in their community to influence and bless this season. Training our children to look beyond themselves, and realize the potential that they possess of positively impacting someone else.
Dr. Robert Emmons and Dr. Jeffrey Froh give evidence that focusing on thankfulness and giving to others improves the lives of students and adults.
Keeping a gratitude journal on a daily basis helps students and adults achieve the following:
• Higher grades
• Higher goals
• More satisfaction with relationships, life, and school
• Less materialism
• More willingness to give back.
• Be more optimistic
• Have less envy and depression
• Have fewer physical complaints
• Sleep better.
Creating active attitudes of being grateful for all that we have and giving generously to those in need do not need to be isolated during the holiday season. These are life skills and behaviors we should be instilling and fostering into our children year round. Not only are there positive emotional results but also positive physical results seen in recognizing the blessings around us, but also in giving generously to bless others. We are teaching our children to look beyond themselves and realize the potential they possess to have an impact on others. Whether our children are looking at what has been given to them or training them to give to others; we are training this generation that life is filled with elements that they need to be appreciative for and that they have the power to bless another.
Robert Emmons, How Gratitude Can Get You Through Hard Times,Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, May 13, 2013.
Jeffrey J. Froh, William J. Sefick, Robert A. Emmons, Counting blessings in early adolescents: An experimental study of gratitude and subjective well-being, Journal of School Psychology 46 (2008), pp.213-233 (PDF, 410KB).
Jeffrey J. Froh, Robert A. Emmons, Noel A. Card, Giacomo Bono, Jennifer A. Wilson, Gratitude and the Reduced Costs of Materialism in Adolescents, Journal of Happiness Studies, Volume 12, No. 2, 2011 (PDF, 356KB).
Vicki Zakrzewski, Gratitude Activities for the Classroom, Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life, November 19, 2013.