With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we’re reminded to give thanks. But who says this practice should be reserved for one day?

According to Gina McDowell, LPCC-S and behavioral health clinical educator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, practicing thankfulness — especially volunteering and giving back — demonstrates an improvement of mood and overall wellbeing.

“The sooner we can start incorporating some of those behaviors and practices the better,” she said.

That’s why she and other experts encourage parents to set aside opportunities to teach children about thankfulness.

Not sure where to start? McDowell has some recommendations:

Say what you’re thankful for

No need to overcomplicate it; simply give thanks. Make this a family affair by going around the dinner table, for example, and having each person share at least one thing he or she is thankful for.

“It’s pretty easy for us to want to come home at the end of the day and unload about everything that went wrong or what we’re upset about, so it really sets the tone when we focus more on the positive and the things that we’re thankful and grateful for,” McDowell said.

Start a gratitude journal

Encourage your youngster to write down what he or she is thankful for in a journal, preferably every day.

Model an attitude of gratitude

Help your child understand how to practice thankfulness by doing it yourself as the parent.

“We’re not just expecting the kids to express gratitude, or expecting the kids to say thank you all the time. We need to model that for the kids,” McDowell said.

Why not start a gratitude journal with your child? Or, as a good teaching opportunity, share why you thanked someone and how.

Get into the habit of writing thank-you notes

Who doesn’t love a good thank-you note? Encourage your child to send thank-you’s, perhaps after receiving a gift or an act of kindness, or maybe without any prompting at all — simply to tell another “thank you” for being you.


Look for volunteer opportunities and have your child give back.

“I think getting kids involved in different volunteer opportunities is huge,” McDowell said. “It shows an improvement of wellbeing and an improvement of mood when we are able to give back and help others.”

There are all sorts of ways to give thanks. Have fun with it, and Happy Thanksgiving.

This story is brought to you in part by the Little Buckeye Children's Museum, a local children's museum that is proud to provide children and families opportunities to learn and discover through the power of play every day in Richland County. As a nonprofit, Little Buckeye Children's Museum appreciates the support of the community it serves. If you would like to support Little Buckeye Children's Museum and its mission for healthy child development, click here.


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Thrive Reporter

Thrive reporter. Graduate of Ontario High School and Ohio State Mansfield. Wife. Mom. Dog lover. Fitness enthusiast. Plant collector. Mac and cheese consumer.