By Lori Long, Coordinator of southwest Virginia schools

“Tis the season to get a lot of stuff” …This is not exactly the message we want to send to our children this holiday season. It is easy to get caught up in all the hubbub of the latest and greatest hot ticket items. But what message do we really want to send our children, and how do we effectively deliver it? Most parents say they want their child to be grateful and not feel entitled.

Good manners are certainly important, but teaching a deeper understanding of gratitude will improve your child’s overall happiness and build a foundation of generosity that they can stand on for years to come.

This holiday season make gratitude a priority with these helpful tips:

  1. Model an Attitude of Gratitude- First, children are always watching you. You can model gratitude by taking a few minutes each day to tell your child why you are grateful for them. Make this specific. Keep a gratitude journal of your own. Share some things you are grateful for with your child. Encourage older children to start a gratitude journal of their own. Children who are not yet writing can draw pictures of experiences they are grateful for. During dinner or riding in the car can be good moments to ask your child something they are thankful for that happened during their day.
  2. Make a Different Wish List This Year- It would be fun to sit down with your child a make a different kind of list this year. Instead of your child focusing on their wish list, have them write down what they wish to do to give to others. This time of year there are so many community activities to teach gratitude and giving.
    Here are just a few ideas to get your family involved: creating Angel trees, assembling Christmas shoe boxes, volunteering at food banks, donating time or toys, making cookies for elderly or neighbors, and being kind to animals by making homemade doggie treats or volunteering at an animal shelter. The lists go on and on.
  3. Gratitude Garland- While you are decorating for the holiday season be sure to make a gratitude garland. Cut some red and green strips of paper, write things each of you are grateful for and then glue your paper chain together to make a beautiful gratitude garland for your tree or mantle. You can always add to the garland to make it even longer! When other family and friends come to visit your child can get them involved too!
  4. Thank You Notes- We don’t always remember to write thank you notes during the holiday season. Have your child make some thank you notes to family and friends who brought them a gift. Again, if they are unable to write, you can have them draw a picture or scribe their words in the card, but get them involved.

We hope these tips will help your children grow in gratitude.

Speaking of gratitude, Lutheran Family Services is grateful for each of you this holiday season, and hope you and your family are blessed with much love and peace!