Many of us are coming out of a week of gratitude, and as usual, many of us are charging full speed ahead into the holiday season. This year, it seems that we are all so excited to jump into our December holidays. After months of pandemic burdens, people are ready to celebrate something, to enjoy traditions, to put up the decorations and bring joy to their communities. In my own community, I’m seeing more holiday decorations out than ever before, and they’ve been out for a few weeks now. We’re all ready for some joy, and this visible declaration that we WILL celebrate makes me smile.
In the midst of our joyful holiday seasons, however, we often see materialism and selfishness take over. And this is a struggle for our children too. So let’s not leave thankfulness too far behind as we hurry into this joyful season. Let’s bring gratitude into the holiday season!
The Benefits of Gratitude
Studies show that a habit of gratitude improves our quality of life in multiple ways. And these are not just feel-good types of things. Gratitude affects us in significant ways.
Positive Psychology gives a good overview of the research and breaks the benefits of gratitude down into 5 key areas. Gratitude helps us emotionally, physically, and socially. It also helps us in our careers and our personalities.
If we look at only the physical benefits, we see that gratitude improves our sleep, reduces blood pressure, increases our mental abilities, and decreases depressive symptoms. Additionally, it’s reported to simply improve our general health. Who wouldn’t want to benefit in these ways from something that costs us absolutely nothing?
So how do we bring gratitude into the holiday season?
Say Thank You!
We all know that our kids should say “thank you.” This is a skill that parents work hard to develop. “Say ‘thank you’!” is a phrase that we whisper regularly, and some of us even use the sign for thank you to signal this reminder to our children.
There is another way to help our kids remember to say “thank you.” Whenever you do hear your child say “thank you,” be sure to let them know that you heard them and appreciate that they remembered. Appreciation and encouragement from us will go a long way in helping them to remember.
It’s also important for our kids to say “thank you” in writing. After they receive gifts, help your kids write thank you notes. There are many simple templates online that you can print out for your littlest ones. They need to only fill in the blanks or tell you what to put into the blank. It’s a great way to begin a habit of thankfulness even when they are too young to write their own thank you notes.
Provide stationery for kids who are able to write. If coming up with the wording is difficult, they can say their message out loud, you can write it down for them, and then they can copy their words onto the thank you note. Of course, older kids can write their own thank you notes, and if this has been a habit for them, it will not be difficult.
Keep a Gratitude List
A great way to build a habit of gratitude is to write it down. You can keep personal journals or a family list. My kids each have a “Thankful Book” where they write something each morning, or at least most mornings. When someone is having a hard time thinking of something to write down, we have fun reminding one another of all the things we can be thankful for.
For some help in thinking about things to be grateful for, look for thankful prompts for adults and kids online. These prompts often help us to see things we hadn’t thought about. December lists will likely have great ideas to bring gratitude into the holiday season.
Give to Others to Express Gratitude
During this holiday season, look for ways to thank people who serve you, like delivery workers and other service providers. Many of us have started to put out snacks and drinks for our delivery workers during the busy holiday season. We even pack treats into a sealable bag to keep them clean and set them on top of our garbage containers for our sanitation workers. My kids love looking out the window to see their smiles.
Sit down with your kids and see if you can come up with a list of people to give to in gratitude this holiday season. And come up with the best way for your family to give. We don’t have to give stuff. We can write notes or give our time too. Often, these are more meaningful. So think about the best way for your family to show gratitude by giving.
Just Give to Others
Finally, being generous to others is a great way to develop gratitude in ourselves. Kids love to give once we get them thinking about it. So, again, sit down with your kids and figure out who you can give to just to be giving. Do you know someone who has a need? See what you can do together to help this person. Your kids will love it. And next year, you will love hearing your kids ask, “Who are we going to help this year?”