Gifting with a Side of Gratitude

You may still be finding glitter in the floorboards and trying to rid the kitchen of the remaining cookies - but for many of us, the holiday season has come to a close.
The last few weeks were filled with lots of joy, cheer, and gifts. Whether white elephants or secret santa, Christmas morning or Christmas eve, one night of Hannakuh or all eight, gifting is a tradition for many. Early on children learn the rhythm of getting and getting associated with the holidays. They relish in the anticipation and excitement and we tend to share some of the magic and joy as well.
But what if we added something new to this tradition? What if we made gratitude an intentional part of the holidays?   Research has consistently shown the benefits of gratitude. From better physical and psychological health, increased happiness and life satisfaction, to decreased materialism - gratitude is good for us. Helping kids build their “gratitude muscle” early on is important. Consider some quick tips for incorporating gratitude into your holiday routines: -      
  • If you’re thankful, let them know! Kids see and hear everything (for better or worse!) If you consistently model expressing appreciation, through your words and actions, they will notice. Exhibiting genuine gratitude sets the tone for your kids to do the same. Hugs, high-fives, simple notes or exclamations of excitement - model the many ways to show gratitude. 
  • Scaffold and script what to say. We often ask kids “What do you say?” to which they often reply with an obligatory “thank youuuuu”. Instead try asking questions that uncover the appreciation. “I see the excited look on your face, how are you feeling about that gift?” “When do you think you will use that? Who are you going to show it to?” “What’s your favorite part of that?” Helping kids to be specific about how they feel and what they appreciate helps them to reflect and articulate their appreciation, increasing both self-awareness as well as social awareness.
  • Make an activity out of it. Writing thank you notes is often seen as obligatory, annoying and somewhat antiquated. But taking time to draft a message of appreciation provides time to reflect and express ourselves in a way we rarely do. Take out some new art supplies or find those old notecards that have been in the desk drawer for ages. Young children can dictate a message for you to transcribe on a piece of their artwork. Older children can be encouraged to get creative, creating a word search with words of appreciation, a secret code that reveals a thank you message, or special thank you trinkets. However your child chooses to show their appreciation, engage in the activity with them. Create your own thank you notes to encourage their work and strengthen your own “gratitude muscle”.
  • Make it modern. Embrace technology and help your child make a short thank you voice note or video to send to relatives. Have your child dictate a message to go on the back of a photo or accompany a video of them enjoying the gift. Did you miss out on holiday cards this year? What about sending a photo of your child holding a special thank you message with sidewalk chalk or paints? Whatever the medium, make showing appreciation fun.
  • Pass it on. With an influx of new toys, devices, clothes etc. kids can be encouraged to appreciate all that they have and acknowledge what they no longer need or have outgrown. While appreciating all the new, help kids sort through the old and then decide as a family where those items could find new homes.  
Saying “thank you” is more than a demonstration of good manners or polite behavior. It’s a practice that is mutually beneficial; a gift for both the giver and the receiver. Add gratitude to your gift list.  

    about the author

    Lindsey Minder, MS, CCLS, is an Independent Consultant focused on creating holistic educational experiences at the classroom, school, and system level. After over a decade in the classroom, she has deep experience and expertise in strategies and systems that support students’ holistic growth, as well as, a strong commitment to the social-emotional development and well-being of school-based staff.
    Through her current work she collaborates with school leaders and partner organizations across the country on ways to integrate social-emotional learning into all elements of school models.
    Lindsey is dual certified in Elementary and Special Education, holds a BA in Psychology from Marist College, a Masters Degree in Child and Family Studies from Wheelock College and is trained as a yoga and mindfulness teacher. Most recently Lindsey was a Lead Partner at Transforming Education. Prior to that role she worked as the Director of Social Emotional Learning at Codman Academy where she was also a founding teacher. She also taught at Dorchester Collegiate Academy and The Fayerweather Street School and was a Certified Child Life Specialist at Boston Children’s Hospital and Albany Medical Center.
    Lindsey currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

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