Showing and Teaching Kids to be Thankful

By Donna Kane, MA, CT 

Last night I wrote up my grocery list for Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving dinner, at my house, is a family tradition.  Another tradition we have is to go around the table and say one thing that we are thankful for.  It can be as silly as, “I’m glad it is almost Hanukah,” or as serious as, “I’m thankful we are all healthy and able to be together.”

Anticipating this tradition has got me thinking about how we as parents can instill a sense of appreciation or thankfulness in our children.   One form of appreciation is to show respect for someone or something of value.  So I guess we start to teach our children appreciation when they are very young simply by loving them.  As they become more aware and see how respectful we are to them and to others, they will, hopefully, follow our lead and learn to respect and appreciate those around them.

Taking care of things is another way to show appreciation.  And nowadays, children have lots of “things.”  Helping your children take care of their toys and clothes will hopefully translate into teaching them respect for their belongings and the property of others.  This is a fine line to walk because we do not want to teach our children to overvalue their possessions.  This really is a judgment call.  I remember comforting my son when he accidentally broke a vase, and then having my words haunt me a day or so later when he had his shoes on the sofa.  “It’s just stuff, ma.”   Oy vey.

I believe affection is an effective and loving way to express and teach appreciation.  Hugs and kisses, kind words and notes can show children that they are valued and appreciated.  Simple and sincere thank-yous can teach children thankfulness and appreciation of others.  That is one reason why writing thank-you notes is so important.

I guess it really comes down to parents being the best role models for our children.  How we show our appreciation and how we react to the people and things around us is probably the best way for our children to learn about gratitude and appreciation.  By serving as role models, we enhance the likelihood that our children will integrate these lessons into their own value system as they grow and mature.

For me, being at the Thanksgiving table with my friends and family fills me with a great feeling of happiness and appreciation.  I hope my son feels the same way.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones.

Donna Kane


Because children don’t come with an instruction manual, JCS offers a variety of programs, services, education and support for parents and families with children of all ages. Click here or call 410-466-9200 to learn more.

By Donna Kane, MA, CT is a Grief Specialist for Jewish Community Services.


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