Fostering Kids’ Gratitude, Part 1: Send Thank You Postcards

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Every Thanksgiving Day, we ask the kids to name things they’re thankful for. While doing so is a nice practice, it’s usually limited to a one-minute conversation before the big feast. And though they always say “my family,” it’s spoken in a perfunctory, I-know-this-is-what-my-parents-want-to-hear type of way. In short, I’m doubtful that this thankfulness exercise makes any impact whatsoever on the kids. Which is a bummer because research shows gratitude is powerful stuff.

The paper I’ve linked to above notes that “more grateful people are happier, more satisfied with their lives, less materialistic, and less likely to suffer from burnout.” From a parenting perspective, I’d like to add that being around appreciative kids is much more pleasant than the alternative, which in turn makes it easier to be a better parent. A virtuous cycle of sorts.

To overcome the limitations of the Thanksgiving Day one-minute thankfulness exercise, I’m trying out two different ways of practicing gratitude with the boys this year. One I’ll share with you today, the other on Friday.

The first way focuses on thanking people by sending gratitude postcards. At first we’d settled on some cards with animal photos on the front, but then it occurred to me that handmade drawings would add a way more special touch than, say, a stock gorilla photo. I thus ordered a pack of sixty blank postcards for $6.99. Here’s some of what we’ve created so far.

It’s been fun brainstorming who we want to thank. The list has included Chris and Martin, a.k.a. the Kratt Brothers, for creating shows about animals; the staff at our local bakery and our public library; the boys’ homeroom teachers and gym teacher; and someone on an adjacent blocks whose yard always teems with beautiful plants (yes, that one was all me). We’ve also enjoyed making the drawings, relying on Art Hub for Kids videos, Ed Emberley books, online tutorials, and good old-fashioned freehand drawing. The sunflower is one of my favorites–I drew it off an Art Hub for Kids video and then Evan enhanced it because, as he informed me, he’s really good at drawing roots. 🙂

My hope is to keep a pile of blank postcards within easy reach so that we continue this gratitude practice even once November’s over. But for now, we’ll keep noticing all the good people who make our lives better and thank as many of them as we can.

How do you cultivate gratitude in your kids? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments below!

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