The holiday season is a great time to be a kid. Your candy quota continues its upward trajectory, with the added bonus of seasonal treats (hot cocoa and cookies abound!). School lets out, resulting in increased playtime, and let's face it, it feels great getting showered with presents, especially when you're a kid. As parents, the challenge is instilling a holiday spirit that goes beyond the thrill of "getting stuff," and explaining the thoughtfulness behind the gifts. You might not see a transformation overnight, but here are some methods for engendering a grateful attitude in your children.
Thank You Notes
As adults we often struggle to get these out on time or sometimes at all, but this is an activity you can get your young kids involved with to help them make the connection between the gift and the giver. You might have to do all the writing yourself, but let your child put their mark on it. Have them include a drawing on the note (possibly the present itself), and if they can write their name, have them include their signature. This also gives you and the recipient a chance to praise the child for their creativity and thoughtfulness.
Displaying Gratitude Yourself
In your everyday interactions, set a good example by thanking cashiers, waitstaff, crossing guards, nurses, and everyone you encounter along the way. You can take the time to explain to your child why the person provided a kindness or service worthy of gratitude. Also, show gratitude to your child and let them know why you appreciate them. If they're well-behaved in public, kind to a younger sibling, or give a grandparent a nice hug, positively reinforce the behavior by thanking them.
Practicing "Thank You"
As it pertains to receiving gifts over the holidays, you might want to practice before the big event. If it helps, rehearse by role-playing with stuffed animals — pretend they're giving the gift and deserve a "thank you." Emphasize that acknowledging the gift-giver must happen before they move on to the next gift.
Make Giving a Tradition
Participate in charitable activities with your child every year to convey the message that it's an integral part of the holiday season. Have your child come with you when you deliver baked goods to neighbors or loved ones. Participate in an adopt-a-family type gift giving program, and let your child pick out some of the gifts. Additionally, you can make them write a second holiday gift list. This could be a list of things they'd like to make or give to their friends or loved ones, or a general list of things they're thankful for.
When you're out shopping with a child, it's fine to get them a treat or a small present sometimes, but be sure and establish that it's not an every time deal. You don't want being in a store to automatically register as a "getting stuff" situation. When it comes to holiday presents, teach your little one to have reasonable expectations with just how many gifts they receive. Ask them to narrow down their list if it's pages long.