Positive Parenting: Make gratitude part of A child’s Holiday experience

Letter to Santa

My kids have lists a mile long! And anything we get will be forgotten in a week, and they will want more…” 

“It’s like there is never enough stuff!”
“I feel like I’m not a good parent if I don’t get them everything they want.”

No wonder the “season of giving” feels like the “season of getting,” which can cause stress, hurt feelings and frequently incurs debt.

How can parents get off this merry-go-round and teach their children about gratitude and the joy of giving?

• By all means help children make their own wish list. Children need to know that what they want is important.

Next, help them make a giving list. Point out that receivers depend on givers, and that each of us is both of those things.

Involve them in shopping if they are interested, but keep the trip short and simple. Depending on their age, you can give children a small budget.

Be willing to share your giving list, and ask the children for their help and advice.
• Make the giving list by starting with what they appreciate about each person before adding a gift. This might even spark some ideas.
• Handmade gifts are as meaningful as purchased ones. The beauty of some gifts lies mainly in the love with which they were created.
• Talk about how good it feels to receive, and how good it feels to give. When you read books, watch movies or see generosity at work, ask your child questions, or point out how happy both the giver and receiver are.
• It’s hard to experience gratitude in the chaos of everyone ripping open their presents at once.

Take turns opening gifts while everyone watches, and let everyone appreciate the giver’s thoughtfulness. Savor those moments together.

(You might get resistance at first if you change your routine, but most families actually like and enjoy the process.)
• Over the holiday meal, take turns sharing gratitude with one another, or tell each person what you love about them. Everyone can participate.
• Everyone appreciates a thank-you card. Make thank-you cards a tradition. Consider giving children thank-you cards for any gift they give you on your birthday, Mother’s Day or other occasions throughout the year.

Make sure they see you writing thank-you cards with a true sense of gratitude.

• Finally, remember that what children really want is YOU. There is no substitute for your loving attention, your listening ears and time spent in your warm company.

For that reason, any gifts that bring you together are going to be the best ones.

Lesley Iwinski is a Lexington mother of three grown children, a family physician and Executive Director of The Parent and Family Enrichment Center, Inc. and Growing Peaceful Families.