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Thursday, March 26th, 2015
Quick! Who are you thankful for?
Is it your spouse/partner? Kid(s)? Mom? Dad? …?
If you have trouble naming someone beyond core family members, you’re not alone. Actress Elizabeth Banks recently found herself stumped as well. But with the help of a new gratitude initiative called the ThankList, Banks was able to remember and thank a friend she hadn’t seen in 15 years.
According to the 2014 Civility in America survey, 93 percent of Americans believe there’s a civility problem that is contributing to an increasingly rude nation. To help make the world a nicer, thoughtful, and caring place, American Greetings created the ThankList project and then teamed up with the Huffington Post to remind people that two simple words (“Thank you”) are powerful enough to increase civility.
You’re encouraged to write a list of people who shaped you and who you want to thank (just watch this series of short ThankList films to be inspired!). The people you express gratitude for can be “anyone in your life who listened when you needed someone to listen or anyone who supported you when you needed support,” said Banks, one of five guest speakers at a ThankList media panel.
Of course, gratitude doesn’t have to start and end with adults — teaching kids to be thankful from an early age will help them be happier and more appreciative with the people and things around them. A recent study even found that gratitude is a key factor in helping people feel more positive and satisfied later in life. Nurturing a grateful child can also develop other related qualities such as kindness, generosity, a sense of social responsibility, and even good manners. Plus, giving thanks also has long-term physical and mental health benefits.
So a child’s first role model for gratitude starts with you — by sharing your own ThankList (use #ThankList on social media), keeping a gratitude journal, or even doing good deeds can help your little one understand the importance of counting your blessings. After all, there’s a reason why we ask kids to express gratitude every Thanksgiving, though the practice could certainly be done year-round. And according to the same civility survey, millennials are becoming more proactive in countering incivility and doing something about it — which is good news to be thankful for, because the more kindness and gratitude spreads, the more hope parents will have that the world is becoming a better place for kids.
Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for Parents.com. She loves collecting children’s picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea.
Photo of “I’m Thankful For” sign via Shutterstock
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generosity, generous, giving, giving back, giving thanks, gratitude, kindness, responsibility, thankful, thanklist, Volunteer, volunteering, volunteerism | Categories:
Child Development, Parenting
Tuesday, December 30th, 2014
Growing up, even though I didn’t believe in Santa Claus, I still, um, believed in getting gifts. And I had my fair share of Christmas wish lists for mom and dad. A few items that topped one year’s list included a Play-Doh machine that molded glittery butterflies, an Easy Bake Oven, and a sparkly-velvety Christmas Barbie. I actually never received any of these items, and I am grateful that my parents never gave them to me.
Instead of teaching me to expect gifts every year just because it was the expected for Christmas, my parents taught me to remember those who had helped us in some way throughout the year, and to give to them instead. In our family, this meant remembering the next-door neighbor who helped shovel our snow in winter, the family friend who dropped me off after school, and even the postman — with either fresh fruits, a homemade meal, or chocolates. My parents didn’t give generously in the lavish and expensive sense; instead, they made sure to give generously with affection and heart.
But what makes someone generous? And can generosity be developed?
The answers may lie in a recent study published online in Current Biology. Developmental neuroscientists at the University of Chicago focused on a small sample size of 57 children, ages 3 to 5, to see how the idea of generosity (or the concept of moral behavior) formed at a young age. Each child watched short animations of cartoon characters either helping or hurting one another. Afterwards, the children were presented with two boxes and 10 stickers. They had the option of placing stickers in one box for themselves to keep, or placing the stickers in the other box to share with an unknown child. In most cases, regardless of age or gender, children placed at least 2 stickers in the box for the unknown child.
Throughout the experiment, the scientists tracked and recorded the children’s brain waves and eye movement. They then compared the children’s brain waves during the watching process and the giving process. Researchers noticed that specific neural markers in the brain during both times were engaged in the same way, which indicated that even at a young age, kids had the ability to connect moral situations (helping someone) with the desire to share (being generous).
This is an encouraging study, which is on track to showing that generosity can be identified in kids who are still at an age when selfishness reigns. And if generosity can be identified, then it has the potential to be nurtured and developed as kids get older. In essence, being generous means being sensitive to the needs of others and sacrificing some time (or maybe money) to helping them.
And most parents want to raise kids who give and who understand the importance of volunteering and donating to charity. One way parents can teach the idea of giving and generosity might be as simple as asking kids what gifts they will give others for Christmas, versus what gifts they want to receive. Or it may mean emphasizing gifts that come from the heart and not from the wallet, like spending more time together, as this IKEA Spain commercial reveals. It’s always the simple, smallest things that can make the biggest impact.
‘Tis the season for giving, which doesn’t have to end with the Christmas holiday. Instead, make giving and generosity (with your time, understanding, words of encouragement, hugs and kisses) an ongoing, year-round concept.
Sherry Huang is a Features Editor for Parents.com who covers baby-related content. She loves collecting children’s picture books and has an undeniable love for cookies of all kinds. Her spirit animal would be Beyoncé Pad Thai. Follow her on Twitter @sherendipitea
Photo: Hands holding a heart via Shutterstock
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Big Kids, Child Development, Holidays, Parenting, The Parents Perspective
Friday, April 25th, 2014
On Monday April 21, Boston’s iconic marathon finished without a hitch. It was hard to believe that we’d already crossed the one-year mark of the bombings on Boylston Street, which shook the city of Boston and our nation. But we were not rattled for long. In fact, a group of seven moms from Naples, Florida sprang into action just days after the attack to show Boston and the world that there is more compassion than there is hate. Kari Wagner founded the Prayer Canvas: America4Boston project to create artistic canvases from around the country to send physical well wishes and messages of healing to Boston.
“The idea was to create a giant symbol of our compassion, resilience and unity as a country and as a world,” said Wagner. “I wanted to show that millions of people still care about one another and want to do good things, instead of a small minority of people that wreak havoc in our lives, strike fear in our hearts, and try to change the way we live.”
Starting with one 6 by 18 foot canvas, these moms got down on their knees and drew out 360 squares that could be decorated and signed in red, white and blue, with messages of hope for Boston.
“I wanted something that everyone could do from age 2 and up,” she said. And the project was funded entirely through her team’s “creative budgeting” so that no one felt they had to donate in order to partake. Some artists did tuck bills under the sandbags weighing down the canvases, but these donations will go to One Fund Boston.
A true grass roots initiative, the seven moms reached out to friends, family, and former co-workers across the U.S. on their mission to get all 50 states involved. The campaign snowballed and to date, there are 215 canvases totaling over 20,000 square feet that have been completed by nearly 150,000 participants with more coming in. “We’ve been to major sporting events, schools, churches, festivals, state fairs, rehab centers, senior facilities, it truly is a great representation of the fabric of America,” said Wagner.
Daryl Sissman is one of the original Florida mothers who started this campaign with Kari. A Boston native and mother of three children ages 9, 7, and 5, Sissman felt that this could be her outlet to “help the city heal.” She came back to her hometown last week for the presentations of the canvases in Boston—from the Boston Medical Center Ceremony to laying out the banners on the Boston commons to the Red Sox Tribute at Fenway Park. “We like to say ‘Seven moms, 11 months, 50 states, 100,000 messages strong for one Boston,’” Sissman quoted. As a mom of two kids, ages 7 and 5, it was also important to Wagner that she show her children and the future generation that a small group can do something huge.
The canvases will be displayed all over Boston—from the airport to the Medical Center—and even, hopefully, one day on Capitol Hill. “The media would ask me ‘Did you ever think it would get this big?’ Wagner recalled. “I think the anticipation is that I would say no, but I always did because I believe in people. I believe in the goodness of people. I just wanted a giant reminder of that.”
Find out more about America 4 Boston and ways you can get involved here.
For ways to encourage volunteerism and generosity in your child, sign up for our Parents Daily newsletter.
Photograph: Credit Andrew Nelson / (From left to right) Nicole Soderlund, Soofia Khan, Daryl Sissman, Kari Wagner, Jen Warkel, Kim Bellestri, Melissa Kruk
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