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Fostering an Attitude of Gratitude

5 Ways to Inspire Your Kids to Give Back this Holiday Season

By Rachelalvez

The countdown is on. As the holiday season nears, your child’s sense of anticipation, excitement, and yes, expectation increases by the day. And while the holidays are a magical time filled with gifts and celebrations, they’re also an ideal time to teach kids about practicing gratitude and giving back.

When children have an attitude of gratitude, research shows they’re happier, more empathetic, and resilient. In fact, one study found that just writing a heartfelt thank you note makes the author feel happier for a whole month!

So, how can you help your child build a sense of gratitude this holiday season? Start with these five tips. 

1. Distinguish between needs and wants. 

The holidays are a great opportunity to reinforce lessons about needs vs. wants. Whether they’re toddlers or teens, kids can be pretty certain they need a toy, video game, or pair of shoes. The most important element when talking about needs vs. wants is to recognize that “wants” aren’t a bad thing. When kids understand the difference, the discussion naturally shifts to setting realistic expectations for the items on their holiday wish lists and brainstorming how they can earn money to achieve their savings goals. 

2. Shine a spotlight on giving.

Put just as much emphasis on helping your child choose gifts for others as you do on talking about the gifts they want to receive. The more involved they are in planning, shopping, and delivering presents, the more joy they’ll find. Remember, giving doesn’t have to be about material things. Encourage kids to think outside-the-gift-box to create coupons for doing yard work, cleaning out the garage, or delivering breakfast in bed. And find a way to make giving a family affair by adopting a family or collecting food for the local food bank.

3. Model gratitude.

Perhaps the single best way to instill a sense of gratitude in your child is to model the behaviors yourself. This can be as simple as expressing what you’re grateful for – big and small – on a regular basis. When you pause to explain why a phone call from a friend warms your heart or why you’re adding a tip to the holiday card for the mailman, kids see everyday gratitude in action. Take it to the next level by involving your kids in practicing random acts of kindness like baking cookies for a neighbor or buying a coffee for the person behind you at the drive-through window.

4. Establish gratitude routines. 

Create regular opportunities for kids to practice gratitude. Asking everyone around the dinner table to share what they’re most thankful for is effective, whether it’s an ordinary weeknight or Thanksgiving. Another good idea is to create a gratitude jar so family members can drop in a note about moments of gratitude as they happen. Make it a practice to regularly draw a few out of the jar to read aloud. If your kids are too young to write items down themselves, interview them, write down their words of thanks, and let them draw a picture before putting the slip of paper in the jar. 

5. Spend, save, share. 

Beginning around age 5 or 6, consider paying your child a weekly allowance for basic chores. As soon as kids start earning money, help them take a “Spend, Save, Share” approach, carving out portions they can spend right away, deposit into a youth savings account, and share with others. Talk with your child about different options for their “share” allocation. For example, they can drop off a donation to a local charity or add to a larger family contribution. In addition to sharing some of their earnings, teens can opt for a give-back debit card that makes a donation to a cause each time they make a purchase. 

 

Start a new Thanksgiving Tradition with a Gratitude Tree

Inspire the whole family to count their blessings this holiday season by creating a gratitude tree. Start by “planting” a few twigs or branches found at the park or craft store in a small bucket or vase. Then, set the kids loose on decorating the container with stickers, drawings, or glitter. While they’re busy decorating, cut simple leaf shapes out of colored construction paper. Punch a hole in each leaf and add a short piece of string.
Ask family members to write the things they’re most grateful for on the leaves and tie them to the branches of your gratitude tree. Be creative – the leaves of your tree can encompass thankfulness for everything from the roof over your heads and the food on your table to a sunny day and favorite sports teams, hobbies, or songs. You can even add pictures of family, friends and pets who inspire gratitude.


Rachel Galvez is the Marketing Partnerships Manager at Arizona Federal Credit Union. A mom of two, Rachel is committed to empowering families with the information they need to make smart financial decisions now and set their children on the path to financial success in the future. 

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