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Mrs. Brinker shares advice on raising thankful children

As many of us take time to reflect and be grateful, 13News Education Expert Jennifer Brinker shares how we can raise our kids to be thankful.

GREENWOOD, Ind. — With Thanksgiving coming up this week, many of us are taking time to reflect on reasons we are grateful.

For most of us, family certainly tops that list. 

Our 13News Education Expert Jennifer Brinker shared some tips for raising kids who are thankful.  

A Harvard study found that having gratitude is linked not only to happiness, but also to improved physical health and stronger relationships. As parents, we all absolutely want our kids to be grateful.  At school, we find that students who express gratitude regularly tend to display better behavior and do better socially and emotionally, as well.

Dustin Grove: So for new parents watching, how can we practice gratitude with our youngest of kids?

Mrs. Brinker: If we want our kids to be grateful people, we have to understand that this is a process. Having your toddler say 'thank you' is great, but true gratitude isn’t really fully developed until probably somewhere between (ages) 4 to 7, when kids’ brains are more developed and capable of empathetic emotions. Having said that, kids learn by environment, so they will learn the attitude of gratitude by you modeling it. Talk about what you are thankful for. If someone makes a gift for your family, talk about how thoughtful it was or how much time they put into it, so that your child can begin to process how the other person’s actions were kind towards them. 

Roses and thorns

Share each evening during your meal something that you are thankful for that day. One way to do this and to keep kids talking about the good and bad is what I call “roses and thorns” where we talk about the thorn or rough part of our day and the roses, or things that we are thankful for. This keeps your kids talking and while they get to share their rough times, they are also always sharing something that was a bright spot of the day.  

You can also routinely purchase some large rolls of paper (IKEA sells them at a reasonable price) roll those out on the table and put crayons out so that the kids can write down the things they are thankful for. 

Dustin Grove: How about older kids and teenagers?

Mrs. Brinker: I would say to be honest, these other activities can still be done with them and even though you might get a few eye rolls, they will probably end up liking the tradition.  Another great idea for older kids would be one of these gratitude journals. You can get one on Amazon for about $5/$6. They usually have uplifting quotes and an opportunity to reflect on what you are thankful for.  I have used this one with a leadership group of kids at school and they have said that writing in it in the morning gets their day off to a great start.