Thursday, November 17, 2005

How to Teach Your Child To Be Grateful


The holidays are approaching. Another year has blown by. Our children have grown miraculously before our eyes. As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, we pause to reflect on our blessings - what we're thankful for. For many of us, we struggle with the concept of blessings as it requires that we take a long hard look at our lives and acknowledge our strengths, as well as our struggles.

As adults, we have the emotional maturity to engage in quiet introspection. Children, however, require mentoring around the abstract concepts of giving thanks and acknowledging the bounty in their lives. Though difficult to communicate in terms that children, especially young children, can understand, it is essential to provide guided introspection around the holidays so that children learn these valuable skills and can begin to appreciate how different our lives would be without good health, love, and family.

Some children will not have the maturity to understand introspection and reflection but they can be taught that “bounty” or “plenty” does not refer to material things.

Meet Tom:

Tom is 6 yrs old. His mom and dad separated 4 months ago. This will his first big holiday with his parents living apart. Tom lives all week with his mom and his dog Charlie. He goes to his dad’s every other weekend.

During a recent visit with his father, Tom awoke several times during the night – on both Friday and Saturday. Dad shared the change in Tom’s sleep pattern with mom and both agreed to watch Tom to determine if it was a temporary change or an indication of a deeper problem.

Tom continued his nighttime awakenings over the next 10 days and exhaustion was catching up with him. Mom received reports back from school that Tom exhibited uncharacteristic behavior. Formerly a bright and sunny child, he seemed more irritable and moody.

Uncertain how to handle the change, they called upon expert help. After several discussions with Tom and his parents, it was clear that Tom was reacting to having his family split for the first time during a holiday.

His parents were educated on how to show Tom to see change in a way that would be more accepting. They were also taught the value of the concepts of thankfulness and plenty as a tool to accept change.

Together they worked to instill these values in their son, showing Tom that having plenty did not mean having all the coolest toys, that the things that matter are family, good health, and feelings. Tom was guided to change his perception of his parent’s separation and focus on their abundance of love for him rather than on the fact that they did not live together. He was shown how to be thankful for his family and all that they shared. As Tom began to understand the true meaning of what it means to be thankful, his nighttime awakenings stopped.

This holiday season, keep in mind the following tips:

1. Awareness: Of those things that are plentiful in your life

2. Teach: Your children the concept of plenty in terms of non-material stuff.

3. Strengthen: ways to draw upon the bounty in your life and build upon it.

Dr. Charles Sophy, Beverly Hills, CA, USA Dr. Charles Sophy currently serves as Medical Director for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), which is responsible for the health, safety and welfare of nearly 40,000 foster children. He also has a private psychiatry practice in Beverly Hills, California. Dr. Sophy has lectured extensively and is an Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California Los Angeles Neuro-Psychiatric Institute. His lectures and teachings are consistently ranked as among the best by those in attendance. Dr. Charles Sophy, author of the “Keep ‘Em Off My Couch” blog, provides real simple answers for solving life’s biggest problems. He specializes in improving the mental health of children. To contact Dr. Sophy, visit his blog at

This article doesn't go into the how-tos. To learn real examples of what exactly to do, read my ebook "How to Develop Your Child's EQ."
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