Autumn is the season for gathering together all that we have grown and accomplished throughout the year. It is a time to be thankful and count our blessings. In our busy lives it is so easy to forget to be thankful. It is certainly easy to forget to demonstrate thankfulness. Autumn is an excellent time to reconnect with this value and remind ourselves and our children how important it is to be grateful.
Teaching Children Gratitude
Send 'Thank You' Cards
This is the most obvious way to teach children gratitude despite it being slightly out of fashion. It is much more convenient to drop someone a text or a Facebook message to say 'thank you' instead of sitting down with our children to create and post a 'thank you' note. It is for this very reason though, that 'thank you' notes are so valuable and that going through the process of creating (and mailing) them helps to teach our children to be consciously grateful. Take time to write 'thank you' notes for gifts or when someone has been thoughtful. Such notes can also be a simple follow up after friends have come to visit; "...it was so lovely to spend the day with you and your family, thank you for coming around!"
Say 'Thank You' at Home
Do we really need to say 'Thank You' at home? Is it necessary to thank each other when we just meander through each day together ~ behaving normally? Of course it is. Expressing thankfulness is, in many ways, just a habit - a good habit - and like any habit it needs repetition to stick. Thank each other for simple things. Practice naturally tacking the words 'please' and 'thank you' on to all questions and requests;
"Can someone please turn on the hall light? Thank you!"
"Will you please pass the salt? Thank you!"
"Thank you for putting your shoes in the basket"
If gratitude comes easily at home it will come easier in all of life.
As in all things, children learn through observation and role play. If they see us modelling gratitude - genuine gratitude - they will learn to be grateful also. We should strive to model gratitude in the important parts of life, in the serious stuff. We can do this by saying 'thank you' but also in our attitudes and our relationships. Thank our spouses for the work they do and then demonstrate this thanks by treating them kindly and taking time to do something thoughtful and nurturing just for them. Be aware that we do this in front of our children. We should try to carry this behaviour forward into our friendships and relationships with family and neighbours. Let our children believe that gratitude is an emotion and an important element in all of our relationships
Bless Each Meal
It is too easy in our fast paced lives, to skip proper meals and instead eat on the run. However, even if we sit down together at a table to eat we can still forget to add this important ceremony to our meals ~ we should remember to bless our meals. Truthfully, if we were thankful for nothing else, being thankful for food and the fact we are able to share meal times together should be the most important thing on our gratitude lists.Meal blessings can be as simple as this Waldorf blessing:
Blessings on the blossoms
Blessings on the roots
Blessings on the leaves and stems and blessings on the fruits
And blessings on the meal.
Care and Respect Our Belongings
We learn to be thankful when we begin to realise the value of things. We should encourage our children to treat things with care - not because they cost a certain amount but because we are thankful for the things we own. Things in our homes should have places where they belong and are put away nicely. Clothes should be folded and stored in a tidy way. Even things like crayons and small toys can be respected and treasured...and treated with love and gratitude. When we learn to feel gratitude for the little things we begin to learn how to feel that way for the bigger things in life.
Encourage Children to Say 'Thank You'
Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. I have heard this many times but always wondered why anyone would say it. It's impossible and untrue. No matter how strong we try to be, against hurtful words, words can be profoundly painful. Words are powerful. When something is said out loud it takes on meaning, it effects change. This is true for negative language but it also true for positive language. Just as words can hurt, they can also heal. Positive words strengthen relationships, they build confidence, and they create joy. Saying 'thank you' is one of the simplest ways to use words positively. 'Thank you' represents humility, respect and gratitude; even if it is said just out of habit. Quietly and gently remind children to say 'thank you'. Practice it together until it comes easily and automatically.
Thinking about gratitude this Autumn ~ How do remind each other to be thankful?