Generating an Attitude of Gratitude
Jay Greenfeld' Ph.D.' C. Pysch.'
With the winter holidays fast approaching' children often get just as hyped up about it as the retail stores do' mere seconds after Halloween ends. Regardless of whether your children attend to Halloween festivities or not' the access and availability to candy is significantly high and it only increases as things move closer to the holiday season. With our first snowfall' work and school days winding down' and the increased number of advertisements accessible to children' the desire to want more of everything goes into overdrive. Although it is often tempting to keep up with what others around you are doing' this is THE time to start to focus on your values' preferences' and goals for your children as their desire to ask for more only increases. Often times as a parent you may tell yourself that you are not going to get caught up in the madness of the holiday season and you put forth your best intention to adhere to that. Yet when it comes down to it' there are too many traps that can lend your children to receiving more than giving and as a result increase your stress levels.
Children are often overexposed to what they think they need versus what they may want. Too quickly children can develop the idea that they may be entitled to certain things' yet lose sight of what helps develop an attitude of appreciation. Whether it is the holiday time or not' the development and enhancement of gratitude in your children's lives is a 365-day task. Gratitude can and will look different at all phases of life. The key is to start with checking in with your own values; what do you think is important for your children to have' receive' and give? Check to see for yourselves as you approach the holidays what types of conversations are you having with your friends about what you would want and need during the holidays. If you feel that too many gifts are unnecessary' then start a new tradition now by having them receive less and give more' ensuring that you explain to your children why you may be taking that approach. Secondly' engage in the conversations with them about how they feel when filling their own bucket of happiness and then have them express how it feels when they show appreciation for others (see Have You Filled a Bucket Today' Carol McCloud) to fill the bucket of others. Place two jars on your counter and every time your child does something nice for another in the family' write it on a small note and add it to the filler jar. When anyone in the family does something that ignores appreciating an act of kindness' add that to the dipper jar. At the end of the week' see who in the family has the most. The activity helps your children quantify how often they are doing something for others and it can also capture the feeling because you can then talk about it with them.
If your children are older' another method may include helping them earn what they want and match that with giving something to others or equal value to others. For each gift they may receive' they can choose which gift to give to a charity of their choice or if they are receiving money as a gift' have them use half of that to buy gifts for others. Regardless of age' when it comes to gratitude' you can always take 10 minutes at the end of each week to have each child count at least 10 things they are grateful for and why.
The importance of helping your children live with an attitude of gratitude s not just for the purposes of holidays or birthdays. One of the main reasons why gratitude is so important is because it allows children to be accepting of what they receive and it helps them start to recognize the importance of limits rather than always expecting. Unfortunately' what often happens is with more giving' every year' the bar continues to be raised and materialism can be consuming leading your children to neglect the core of holiday or birthday season.
The advantage of the holidays or special days during the year allows us to focus not so much on what we have but more so' who we have in our lives. Because as much as the new toys or video games are fun for the moment' they have an expiration date and are just that - momentary. On the contrary' friendships' family connections' time spent creating experiences define the moments that can be created and last a life time. There has often been an inverse relationship between stress and social support' the more support you have around you' the less the negative effects of stress have on your body. Contrary to what many may think' the same does not apply to material items because having more video games does not mean you will be less stressed in life.
Therefore' putting forth more effort to acknowledge the values you want to create and adhere to in your home are not something to just think about' but more so implement. Even if the traditions you create in your home are less materialistic and not the same as others around you' as long as they are consistent with who you are and what you want your children to understand' then celebrate that! Take the time this holiday season to celebrate the people around you and what each person brings to your life' regardless of whether or not you share the same area code. In the end' helping your children see that items can be replaced' experiences and the people that help create them cannot will be crucial. Help your children focus on what is right with their picture in life' not what is wrong or absent. Encourage your children along with yourselves to acknowledge what to be grateful for and how that attitude of gratitude can and will impact others.
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