Helping Your Preschooler Be Thankful During the Holidays

By Marcia Hall

Thanksgiving is here and with it the holidays have begun.  Since the season starts with a day we are meant to reflect and be thankful for what we have, most parents have great hope that the whole season will remain peaceful and pleasant.  This is of course rarely the case.  A lot of children have already begun scoping out the toy catalogs and circling everything they want however, you can instill gratitude in your child in the midst of the holiday experience.

Focus on spending time with family over the holidays.   There is a gift that cannot be purchased and believe it or not it is a gift that children want more than any toy.  The holidays are too often hurried and chaotic.  Though parents often have more time off work around the holidays, they often spend less of it with their kids.  True thankfulness can only be learned by witnessing someone who has it.  If parents want their child to be grateful, they need to connect one on one with each child and model a thankful spirit during this hectic time.

Make a big deal of GIVING!!!  Children frequently make lists of everything they want to get as gifts.  In order to build appreciation parents can work with their child to make a list of people to give gifts too. Younger children can make a simple gift for everyone on the list.  This can be a great way to spend that extra quality time together.  Older children do things around the house to earn extra money in order to buy gifts for the people they care about.  This will help the child understand that all the “stuff” she gets as gifts has value.  In addition it teaches that time, energy and money is often spent on people that you cared for.  This will help the child understand that when her parents give her gifts, it is because she is loved and cared for.

Find a way to teach children about other children who do not have as much.   There are so many charities that offer opportunities to give to families less fortunate over the holidays.  They can range from putting a box of toys together to actually inviting another family into your home.  Parents need to choose what is right for their family but exposing a child to other children that do not have as many toys, games, books and media can be a great eye-opener.  And actively making the holiday season happier for other children can make a child much more thankful for what he has.   Here are a few websites to get you started.

Give gifts to family and friends that have significant meaning.   A lot of the time we rush around and pick out gifts for people just to give them something.  This teaches children it is all about the gift instead of the thoughtfulness that goes into the gift.   Be deliberate and specific about the gifts that are picked out and give to others.  Say things like “I think Uncle Joe will love this fishing pole because he loves to fish so much” or “I am going to get Grandma Sue this shawl because she is always cold and she loves purple.”  By explaining and clarifying why the gift is being given to the specific person parents put a reason behind the gift.

Avoid giving children too many gifts.  Parents often have almost as much fun buying gifts for their children as their children do opening them.  In order to help children have a sense of satisfaction and appreciation, avoid overdoing it on gift giving.  Focus on one or two gifts that have significant meaning to the child.  Decide on a budget and then stick to it.  Ask family members to respect this as well because it is very common for grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. to go overboard too.  If family really wants to shower a child with gifts, ask that the family member plan a fun outing with the child as a gift instead of an object.  This once again focuses attention on people instead of things.

It is possible for a young child to have a fantastic sense of thankfulness.  Focus on doing things together and gifts that cannot be purchased during the holidays and you will be off to a great start.

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