Teaching Gratitude
         Being thankful is always in season. It’s not just for Thanksgiving.

         In November, my students’ homework writing journal includes daily entries
that begin, “I am thankful for....” This is as good a time as any to help your
children reflect on something for which they, too, are grateful.

         Taking time to talk as a family about your gratitude can lead you to realize
that you can leave your personal comfort zone to take up a cause to help other
people.

         My students were touched by an appeal from the Junior Girl Scout troop
at our school. The Scouts were collecting clothing and toys to send to people
who had been devastated by Hurricane Mitch in Central America. It made a
big impression on my six-year-olds that so many children had lost everything they
owned. “Even their toys?” one child asked.

         With the coming of World AIDS Day on the first of December, we collect
pennies to contribute to the AIDS Emergency Fund. We also take the opportunity
to count and wrap the pennies before we hand them over. At first the kids
thought that a few pennies here and there didn’t mean very much. But after a
few weeks, the jar is so heavy that nobody in the class could pick it up. It’s a
visible lesson that shows the meaning of collective power.

         Perhaps a discussion with your own family can lead to a cause toward
which you would like to lend a hand. Whatever the cause, it is important for
children to widen their world view by seeing that they can do something to
make life more comfortable for others. More importantly, it enhances children’s
feelings of self-worth. Children feel good about themselves when they have
helped others.

         We have a choice about how we look at our lives. I choose to focus on
what I have, as opposed to what I want. When we think about what we have,
we always have enough. When we think about what we want, we never have
enough.

         This column has been incorporated and expanded in Teach Your Children
Well: A Teacher’s  Advice for Parents. 

 
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