Thoughtful Parenting: Cultivating gratitude during the holidays |

Thoughtful Parenting: Cultivating gratitude during the holidays

Stephanie Monahan
For the Steamboat Pilot & Today

The best gift we could ever give our children is an attitude of gratitude.

Teaching gratitude can happen throughout the year but seems to be near and dear to my heart during the holiday season. This time of year gives us the opportunity to direct our attention on giving, not getting — creating a joyous time of year.

How does this play out with young children and teens?

Emerald Mountain School has a tradition of pairing older students with younger students to be “siblings” throughout the year. For the holidays, they each make homemade gifts for each other. This activity encourages natural generosity.

Spending time making a gift can be extremely rewarding followed by the overwhelming joy of giving.

These don’t have to be extravagant Pinterest projects but simple things like homemade decorated ornaments, bookmarks or anything with duct tape. This simple gesture shifts the focus to doing for others instead of only experiencing one’s own excitement at getting gifts.

At home, as we prepare for the giving and getting season (especially when my son was little and the toys always appeared to keep multiplying), we give away the toys and games and clothes we’ve outgrown.

As my son has gotten older, I hope this is a constant reminder of the blessings he has received throughout the year and an opportunity to share that with others.

When my son was three years old, I went completely overboard with gifts for him. At that age, he played with toys for a minute and then moved on to the next.

I thought, this can’t happen again. It’s setting us and him up with unrealistic expectations and the need for material things.

I found on Pinterest a letter to Santa that was short and sweet, and we’ve been doing it every year since. It goes like this.

Dear Santa,
For Christmas this year,
I want:
I need:
I’ll wear:
I’ll read:
And I’d really love you to bring me:

This keeps the wanting in check and puts a large emphasis on experiences. Experiences create the space for quality time together.

Whether your family celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza or something else that’s special, I encourage you to think about how you can instill a sense of gratitude with each family tradition.

These are the gifts that will help our children continue to make the world an amazing place.
Happy holidays!

Stephanie Monahan is the director of population health and wellness for the Northwest Colorado Community Health Partnership and serves as the regional health connector.

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