Being thankful requires awareness. It doesn’t come easy for everyone. For kids, it’s something they often don’t even think about until Thanksgiving rolls around and schools and parents ask them what they are thankful for. It’s a great reminder, of course. But how can we cultivate that thankfulness year-round? Not just a quick “say thank you to Aunt Betty for the birthday gift” … but an actual feeling of thankfulness. I think that can start with us setting an example and encouraging thankfulness reminders on a regular basis.

Here are a few ideas to get that attitude of gratitude feeling for your kids.

Morning routine. Most of us are rushed in the morning, so to be brief here, why not say “I’m thankful for you” or ” I’m thankful you get to go to school today and see your friends” along with your goodbye hug and kiss? If breakfast time is more leisurely you can encourage kids to choose something they are grateful for to focus on for the day (I’m grateful Grandma is coming or I’m happy I get to wear my new sneakers today!) It’s a positive way to start the morning.

Dinner routine. Family dinners are excellent for discussions. You may know the “rose and thorn” game where you each name a thorn of the day (something not so great) followed by a rose (something exciting or wonderful that happened that day). Call it what you wish, but it is a fun family discussion and a great way to remember that despite the thorns, there are always roses.

Nightly routine. If it’s rush-rush, kiss-kiss, and the kids are tucked in kind of night, why not spend some extra time sitting together at least a few nights a week and asking them to think about their day. Encourage kids to name three things that happened that day that made them smile. Or maybe ask what their favorite part of the day was. Then be sure to say thank you for that part of the day, or those things that made them smile.

Thankfulness rock. Find one in a store or choose a rock in the yard and paint it. Have your child pick up their rock and then use it each evening. Start by saying “thank you for the best part of my day” and briefly explain. It encourages time for reflection and a feeling of thankfulness. That rock can be a token reminder for them when they feel alone, to remember things that are grateful for.

Books. Here’s another idea to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Head to the library or your kindle app and grab some books on thankfulness. Librarians are wonderful resources and can recommend many. Reading together is one of the best bonding activities that create wonderful memories. Read together as long as you can, even through middle school!

For younger children try “The Thank You Book( Elephant and Piggie) by Mo Willems.

Other books to encourage thankfulness:

  • Bear Says Thanks (Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman)
  • I am Thankful (Suzy Capozzi)
  • The Berenstain Bears Count Their Blessings (Stan and Jan Berenstain)
  • Gratitude Soup (Olivia Rosewood)
  • Peppa Pig and the Day of Giving Thanks
  • Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? (Dr. Seuss)
  • James and The Giant Peach (Roald Dahl)
  • Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
  • The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

Start a gratitude journal. For kids and teens who like to write (and even those who don’t) a gratitude journal is the ticket to well-being and an excellent outlet for thoughts. Perhaps you have one, or had one, of your own. A great idea for any age, a gratitude journal can be written in any time of the day, week, or month. There’s no set format for this. You can use a blank notebook that kids decorate or get a store-bought journal with prompts. This inspires kids to create memories by writing or drawing what they are thankful for whenever they’d like.

Scattering thankfulness. I thought “scattering” was a perfect word here for this season. Just like the leaves falling, we can scatter thankfulness with our words to others. Thanking a neighbor for bringing in your garbage or someone at the store for holding the door can become more than those two quick words when you choose to actually feel a feeling of appreciation for the act they did. Share those thoughts with people by starting the sentence with “I’m really thankful that you ____”. Children listen and watch adults, so as we practice gratitude and thankfulness, we can hope they learn from us. And truth be told, everyone benefits from this, which is what we need now, perhaps more than ever.

What are you doing to remind kids (and yourself) of all we have to be thankful for?