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Some of the greatest human emotions come in the form of gratitude and empathy.  These emotions are taught at a very young age and can be best understood by a child through thankfulness.  What better time for children to truly embrace thankfulness than around the time of Thanksgiving?

Thankfulness not only is a polite way for a child to express gratitude toward another person, it is exceptional for the child’s emotional health as well!  There have been numerous studies done on the positive impact gratitude and thankfulness can have on you.  For instance, thankfulness increases empathy and lowers aggression.  If your child struggles with sharing toys in school and getting aggressive with the other children, it would pay dividends to instill thankfulness into your child’s behavior.

Not only will thankfulness help behaviorally, it will also create a more well-rounded individual.  It is known that gratitude is a very likable quality and is greatly appreciated from peers and teachers alike.

If you are reading this and thinking to yourself, “sure, it’s great to be thankful but how do I get my child to be thankful?”  You’re not alone.  Here are a few ideas that can help your child be more thankful and not feel like a chore.  My personal favorite technique would be to create a gratitude jar.  For Thanksgiving you and your child can sit together and decorate this jar and encourage them to write down on a slip of paper something they are feeling thankful for.  As time passes it can be a fun idea at the dinner table to talk about what happened throughout the day that made he/she feel thankful.

Activities as simple as this, can do wonders for us.  It would be a great idea for you to participate in the gratitude jar as well, because the health benefits are not limited to children.  Gratitude can reduce our feelings of envy and make our memories happier.  These two things alone can easily combat depressive symptoms and make us happier on the whole.  If you think about it, a simple thankfulness jar can have all of these health benefits, why not do it?

Less envious feelings can make us happier on the whole.  The way that we reduce that is through being thankful for what we have. While thinking of what you have and being thankful for it, your feelings of materialism become reduced.  There is nothing wrong with wanting more in life.  However, the real problem with materialism lies with the feeling of thinking what you have is not good enough.  If you are taught thankfulness from a young age you can benefit tremendously by knowing that you ARE good enough and that you have so much in this life to be thankful for.

Practicing thankfulness can do a world of good for both your physical and mental health.  It helps make and strengthen friendships.  The early years in life is a pivotal time for us to socialize and make friends.  The key to thankfulness in the process of making friends is your likability.  When you are thankful you become very likable to people and are easier to get along with.  

Another way to instill thankfulness in your child would be to take thankfulness or gratitude walks.  On these walks, it is encouraged to share the simple pleasures of the day such as the way the warm sun feels on your skin, how beautiful the birds chirping sound, or even how nice it is to share time with your child and how happy that makes you.  You will be very pleased to hear the things that your child will come up with.  There are few things more precious in life than the outlook on life that a child has.

Every time you take part in an activity such as sharing your thankfulness at the dinner table, a thankfulness jar, or thankfulness walks, it strengthens the muscles in the mind which will eventually make gratitude second-nature.  Like anything, the more you practice, the easier and more natural it will become.  As thankfulness becomes something that comes natural to your child you will see that they are less inclined to focus on what others have and are more grateful for what they have.

Another great way to show thanks and make your child feel good in the process is to have them make a thank-you note.  Have your child choose someone that they feel thankful for, and write them a note.  It will make your child feel really good and it will enhance the relationship between your child and the recipient of the note, whether it be to a grandparent, classmate, or sibling.

These small acts of giving thanks, creates huge benefits for us emotionally both for children and adults.  Thankfulness results in our children becoming more well-rounded individuals and makes us more likable as classmates, friends, and brothers or sisters.  As we go through our days promoting thankfulness with our children we are building up their mental muscles that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.  These small activities can make a huge difference.

As we teach our children important gratitude skills, they will be carried on and help create a mentally healthy adult.  Learning these skills will create someone who will be happy with what they have and not envious of what others have, a person who is well-liked and courteous, and someone who is able to see the beauty in life and look at the glass half-full.  Overall, thankfulness is one of the most important things to instill into our children.

Try out some or all of these ideas and get started making memories with your child as well as creating a thankful child.