As much as I remind my young daughters to show gratitude by saying “thank you” and other niceties, I often wonder if I’m expecting too much of them. Is it unreasonable to want my 2-year-old and 6-year-old to see beyond the immediacy of their own wants and needs and remember to extend graciousness to others? Perhaps, but I keep at it anyway.
My mom raised me to regard gratitude as one of the greatest virtues, and this is the upbringing I want to pass on to my daughters – before it’s too late.
To transform gratitude into something tangible and fun that I can do with the girls, I recently pulled out some simple craft materials: paper, scissors, a pen and a Mason jar. I explained to my daughters that we were going to create a “Thankful Jar.” The Thankful Jar helps young kids get into the habit of expressing appreciation every day. Actually, it’s a good practice that your entire family can start right now. For November, try asking your kids questions that help them understand, embrace and be thankful for all that they have.
Here’s how it works: Write down thought-provoking, age-appropriate questions on a piece of paper. Cut out each question separately and place them in a jar. Every day at dinner, pull a question. Go around the table asking each person the question of the day. Listen to everyone carefully and with compassion, and stress that there are no right or wrong answers. The goal is to teach gratitude and give family members of all ages a voice.
Here is a list of questions and prompts that worked for my family, but you can create your own:
- What smell are you grateful for?
- What talent or skill are you thankful for?
- What technology are you thankful for?
- I am thankful I learned how to:
- What food are you most grateful for?
- What in nature are you grateful for?
- I am thankful for this one moment that’s made me a stronger person:
- What struggle are you grateful for?
- I am thankful that I get to see or look at this:
- I am thankful for this one specific thing that brings me joy:
- What childhood lesson are you grateful for?
- What memory are you grateful for?
- What about your body are you grateful for?
- What tradition are you grateful for?
- What holiday are you grateful for?
- What place are you grateful for?
- What has a teacher or family member donen to make you grateful?
- What small thing that happened to you today are you grateful for?
- What part of your health are you grateful for?
- What challenge are you grateful for?
This simple exercise can help families find joy by verbally sharing their gratitude on a daily basis. I found that it helped raise my daughters’ consciousness about their surroundings and the people in their lives.
As my mom always says, “It is not happy people who are thankful, it is thankful people who are truly happy.”
Daniella Guzman is the anchor on NBC4 Southern California’s “Today in LA” weekday morning newscast, 4:30-7 a.m., and a mother of two. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @daniellanbcla.