Teaching appreciation for lifelong gratitude at Lake Tahoe | SierraSun.com

Teaching appreciation for lifelong gratitude at Lake Tahoe

Alaina Reichwald
Special to the Sun

Tis the season of Thanksgiving. Nothing is more spoken about during this holiday season then basting the turkey and expressing deep gratitude.

It's a time when we are reminded of what is really meaningful in our lives. Like clockwork, gratitude shows up briefly from mid-November until the New Year and then seems to wane and disappear all together.

Around March, parents will find themselves wishing their kids had more gratitude for what they have. Yet, as parents, we fail to acknowledge that we ourselves often struggle to hold onto a regular practice of feeling and expressing gratitude.

Why is gratitude so important? It has been found to be a powerful antidote to sadness and depression. What a wonderful tool for our children to learn and practice for the ups and downs of life.

Here are some simple and fun ideas to help our children (and maybe ourselves) develop that infamous "attitude of gratitude" — that quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation and to return kindness:

1. Teaching and offering deep meaningful thank you's: We often say thank you mindlessly. We teach our children nice manners. They know when to say thank you, but often those just become the two words without the feeling of gratitude beneath it. We can expand these manners into moments of gratitude when we teach our children to say "thank you for __." Feel the difference between a simple "thank you" and "thank you for driving with me to the market." OR, "thanks" and "thank you for making me breakfast." The detail takes that "thank you" a level or two deeper and adds meaning to the words.

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2. Dry Erase Gratitude Board: Put up a small dry erase Gratitude Board somewhere that will be easily accessible. Everyday, everyone in the family writes something new on the board. A kindness that they gave or was given to them; some good event that took place; an unexpected happy surprise. At dinner, each family member can take a turn to read what everyone has written. Transcribe the daily list into a notebook in order to reflect on the growing list throughout the year. During sad or lonely times, this can be a powerful tool to remind ourselves of all the wonderful gifts we have received.

3. Gratitude Notes: Leave little notes of gratitude for your kids to find. You can leave them a note taped to their bathroom mirror or even send them a text about something you feel grateful to them about. Gratitude grows and the more we express it to another person, the more often they will respond by doing something deserving of our gratitude.

If gratitude is important for you to grow in your home, commit to a 30-day practice and see how this inspires your family. Gratitude is a habit and like any habit, requires regular practice to anchor into our daily lives.

Many people believe gratitude is the foundation of joy. By helping our children to feel gratitude on a regular basis, we ensure they are on the road to appreciating the small things in life. This practice will add one more tool in their tool belt towards happiness.

Alaina Reichwald is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist and school counselor at Sierra Expeditionary Learning School (SELS).