Ways to teach your kids gratitude ahead of Thanksgiving

Posted at 5:44 AM, Nov 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-25 05:46:22-05

CALEDONIA, Mich. -- Thanksgiving is right around the corner, a time of year where we gather with family or friends to express what we are thankful for.

November is also National Gratitude Month.

Our Mike Avery spoke with a local psychologist on ways to teach your kids how to be thankful year-round.

“Thanksgiving is when we typically think about stopping to acknowledge and be grateful for things,” said Dr. Nicole Beurkens, PhD, CNS Licensed Psychologist and Board Certified Nutrition Specialist at Horizons Developmental Resource Center in Caledonia.

“But really we want to teach kids to have an attitude of gratitude year-round and gratitude is really about stopping to notice and acknowledge the things that are good in our life and the things that are going well and the things that we are thankful for,” Dr. Beurkens said.

It's that time many look forward to each year, Thanksgiving and then Christmas.

Dr. Beurkens said now is a good chance for you to work on teaching your kids gratitude and the importance of showing thanks.

“So as parents we can stop to acknowledge, to say ‘thank you’ to people more often, to stop and notice things at home, when we’re out with our kids, and say, ‘oh, I’m so grateful for that’ or ‘I am so thankful for that’”, she said.

Dr. Beurkens said it’s a simple practice you should do in your own home, that comes with a lot of benefits

“The research actually shows that having more of an attitude of gratitude, practicing gratitude has a lot of mental and physical health benefits for us,” she said. "It takes five positive experiences, thoughts, comments to carry as much weight as one negative for our brain."

Implementing this into your own home is something any family can do.  ‘Thank you’ notes are the most common but another way is to keep a gratitude jar.

“Simply get a container and you have lots of little pieces of paper next to it that people in the family throughout the week can jot down things that they are thankful for, or things that they are grateful for.”

With kids having more time on their hands during holiday breaks, Dr. Beurkens said it’s important to teach kids about the importance of showing gratitude every day.

“Kids have ​a lot of anticipation about what they’re going to receive, this is also a season to help them focus on what they’re grateful for,” she said. "These little strategies go a long way to making kids more resilient and able to take a more positive perspective on themselves and not constantly stay so focused on the negative.”

For the younger kids, Dr. Beurkens said you can have them find items they are thankful for in a magazine and have them cut those items out and make a collage.