If we created a list of attributes we desire for children, thankfulness would probably be on the list. However, cultivating an attitude of thankfulness is a lifelong task, since our natural inclination lies in another direction altogether – toward taking and wanting more and more stuff. We can even fall into the habit of complaining about what we do not have, instead of being thankful for our many blessings. Especially in our materialistic society, trying to teach children about being thankful often feels like fighting an uphill battle.
Teaching young children to say “thank you” is an important first step, but we want to go deeper. We want to help them demonstrate gratitude in more tangible ways in response to Christ’s incredible love for us. Children learn this, in part, as they see significant adults in their lives intentionally model thankful living.
Her are a few specific ways we can support children as they learn to live thankfully:
- As each day ends, talk about all the things that happened that day to be thankful for. Include things we often take for granted like cars, beds, a warm place to live, refrigerators, trees, and flowers. Expand this idea to create a thankfulness board at home or in Sunday school. Suggest that the children draw pictures or list things for which they are thankful.
- Help children write thank you notes. Even in our hurried world, it’s still an important skill. Younger children can apply a sticker to a piece of colored paper and “write their name” in their own way. Older children can take more responsibility for the content of their thank you notes. Teachers can encourage children to create thank-you notes for parents and other care-givers, the children’s minister(s), their teachers at school, the Sunday school or VBS directors, guest speakers, grandparents, and many other people. Once you begin the habit, it will likely cascade and the children will begin to suggest people to thank – so long as you keep the notes short and the process fun.
- Think about ways children can give. For instance, when they outgrow their clothes and toys, encourage them to collect these things to donate to a local charity so other children can use them.
- Work together to make treats or prepare a meal for families needing extra support (e.g., families with a newborn, health concerns, or those experiencing a recent loss).
- Send cards and notes to people who may be lonely, especially elderly friends or neighbors.
Each of these activities takes time, but the benefits can be amazing as you help children respond to God’s love in Christ, looking beyond themselves and caring for others.
Blessings to you as you nurture thankfulness in his children!
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