The months of November and December are popular times to become reflective, practice gratitude, and remember what is truly important in our lives. Here at CEDS, we want that to be the way our children and our community members live out each and every day!
The teachers work very hard to support the development of kindness, gratitude, respect, and empathy in all aspects of the daily life at school. With the holiday season quickly approaching, I want to support our parent body with some tips about how to cultivate gratitude at home. Learning to be grateful and thankful for the wonderful things in our lives is something even the youngest child is capable of. Teaching this essential character trait can be so easy, if not in practice, then certainly by example. Below you will find a series of tips and links which include gratitude activities for the family, volunteer opportunity resources, and advice on how to help children become more aware of their feelings and the feelings of others.
Together, we can raise a generation of children who will change the world:) #GenerationCEDS
1) Be a model. I encourage you to speak with your children frequently about how lucky you feel to have them in your life, how lucky you feel to have delicious food at your fingertips and how lucky you feel to have clean cozy blankets on your beds. Expressing gratitude for the people and things in your life will help them to learn to do the same.
2) Begin to make them accountable. When one of their actions has had a clear effect on someone around them (either positive or negative), make them pause, connect, and observe the effects of their actions. Drawing and highlighting concrete lines between your child’s actions and the consequences of those actions helps them to begin to understand how powerful they can be. Once they begin to understand the power they have, to put people up or put people down, they can begin to take responsibility for how they treat people.
3) Participate in service work. Recognizing one’s own fortune goes hand in hand with offering service to those less fortunate. It is never too early to practice family traditions of community service in one form or another. While you might not think they fully understand the circumstances around why you are volunteering, it will eventually become an integral part of their understanding of the fabric of your family values. For ideas on ways to do volunteer work throughout NYC with your children visit Doing Good Together and register to receive a monthly newsletter. This website and newsletter is such an incredible resource!! Check out their latest communication about the joys and challenges of gift giving.
4) Talk about your day. Make a habit out of everyone in your household sharing the best parts of their day and the worst parts of their day. Not only will this get your child to speak to you about their lives in more specific terms but you can begin modeling empathy as you respond to the comments of your family members. In response to their comments say things like, “Oh wow! That sounds like such an exciting art project! I can see why that would make you happy” or “I can see why that was the worst part of your day. I would feel sad too if I fell down right when it was my turn to show off my somersault.” Doing this on a regular basis will help to make deep-listening, and connecting to the experiences of others, a natural part of the way your child relates to those around them.
5) Create a “Jar of Gratitude”. Every night from December 1st to January 1st my husband, children and I sit together and separately write out one thing we are grateful for. We read our papers aloud and then place them into a jar which we have labeled "The Jar of Gratitude". When my children were little, they would just make drawings and we would dictate their thankful sentiments on the back of their paper. My husband and I modeled aloud the types of things we hoped they would someday be grateful for. Our children’s sense of gratitude started out being directed at simple material goods, like certain toys or treats. Eventually though, their responses evolved and became much more profound. It was clear they were beginning to understand the exercise on a deeper level as the years passed by. Comments such as, “I am thankful for water and food whenever I need it.” and “I have friends who are nice to me and don’t be mean to me,” helped us feel like we were heading in the right direction. On New Year’s Eve, we dump out the jar and read aloud all 120 things we are grateful for. The wonderful feeling this activity brings helps us ride straight into the New Year with hopeful and grateful hearts.
Suggested reading for children on the topic of giving:
The Spiffiest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson
The Giving Book: Open the Door to a Lifetime of Giving by Ellen Sabin
Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen by Dyanne DiSalvo-Ryan
Giving by Shirley Hughes
The Little Band by James Sage
The Giving Box by Fred Rogers
An Awesome Book of Thanks by Dallas Clayton