By Laura Walls
After the holidays, many parents worry about whether their children appreciate all they have gotten from friends and family. Parents want their children to show their appreciation; no one enjoys the embarrassment of a child who throws a gift aside in disgust. So, what can parents do to help their children be thankful for the gifts they receive?
1. Toy Purge: Have children go through their toys and select a certain number, I recommend at least five, to donate. This teaches children not only that giving to others is important, but also helps with decision-making. Tip: Don’t worry if they select something that you feel is not able to be donated (i.e. it is torn or broken), it still should be counted toward the five.
2. Thank You Notes: Have children write a thank you note, draw a picture, send a text, or do something creative of their own choosing to send, even to Santa. This teaches children to think beyond just the gift and about the people who gave it to them. Tip: Don’t worry about your child making the card, note, or picture elaborate; something simple, short and sweet is perfect.
3. Give Gifts: Have children make a gift of some kind or purchase something small for family members on birthdays and holidays. This teaches children that holidays are about others as well and they can begin to develop a sense of community. Tip: Don’t worry about the gift being complicated. Again, keep it simple.
4. Set A Good Example: Be sure to show your appreciation for the gifts you receive as well. Sending your own thank you notes, texts, emails will show children how important being grateful is. Children, especially young children, look to their parents for how to behave. Tip: Be specific. When discussing why you are thankful for a gift, mention a specific reason. For example, I really love the colors of this scarf versus this is a nice scarf. Children then learn to consider gifts more thoughtfully.
5. Don’t Spoil Them: Easy to say, very, very hard to do. Parents want their children to be happy and often parents show them they care by giving gifts. It can be very hard to deny children what they want and to say no. However, limiting the gifts they receive teaches them to manage their feelings (including disappointment) and to appreciate what they get.
It is important to remember that it is very typical for children to struggle to think of others at times, and that children are continuously developing generosity. What you do now to help children with growing a sense of generosity and grace can set them up for success in the future.