Skip to main content

Mendo Lake Family Life

Go for Gratitude

By Kathryn Streeter

People who practice gratitude are happier. That’s what the research says, according to the Harvard Health Publishing article, “Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier”: “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” Gratitude is a thankful outlook on life, and its very expression tends to be action-oriented.

Here are 10 ways to help foster a spirit of gratitude in your children.

• At the beginning of November, present your children with “Thanksgiving notebooks,” which they can use to daily record what they’re thankful for.

• For each letter of their names, have your children think of a word that expresses something that they are thankful for. (Example: Sam: S for soccer; A for animals; M for mom.) Write the words down on long, narrow strips of paper that later will be hung on the refrigerator to create a Thanksgiving display.

• Have your kids write letters expressing thanks to family members and close friends. Tell them to be specific when communicating what each person brings to their lives. For instance, “I’m thankful for you because you tell funny jokes and make me laugh.”

• On Thanksgiving Day, call people whose presence you miss around the dinner table. Hand the phone to your children and let them put in their own words why they miss the person on the other end of the phone.

• Weather conditions can be unpleasant in November. If it’s grim and kids are complaining, counter their negativity with positivity. For example, ask them to talk about what’s good about rain and gray skies. Extend this exercise to other common sources of grumbling.

• Help your children identify one child and one teacher at school who could use a boost of encouragement. Have your child create Thanksgiving cards that precisely explain why they’re thankful to have this person in their lives. Especially urge kids to illustrate the card’s message, to add a personal touch.

• Read books about thankfulness, such as Last Stop on Market Street (Putnam’s Sons, 2015), Crenshaw (Square Fish, 2017), and I Am Malala (Little, Brown & Co., 2016). Refugee (Scholastic, 2017) and Homeroom Diaries (Arrow, 2014) are good selections for tweens/teens. 

• Watch movies filled with messages of gratitude, such as A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973), Up (2009), and Veggie Tales’ episode “Madame Blueberry” (2006). For older kids, consider Lion (2016) and Life Is Beautiful (1998).

• Memorize a quote about gratitude that your child can recite on Thanksgiving around the dinner table. Let them surf sites like Brainy Quotes or to pick out their perfect quote to memorize, such as these:
  • Maya Angelou: “This a wonderful day. I’ve never seen this one before.”
  • Aesop: “Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.”
  • A. A. Milne: “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.”
  • Cicero: “Gratitude is not only the greatest of all virtues, but the parent of all the others.”
  • Oprah Winfrey: “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

• Practice kindness. Make November your family’s month to serve low-income residents in your area. When your kids are serving meals at a soup kitchen or reading to kids at a shelter for women and children, they’ll more readily recognize the gifts in their own lives. 

Find Kathryn Streeter on Twitter @streeterkathryn.