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3 simple ways to teach your kids about gratitude, for Valentine’s, and every day.

by | Feb 2, 2023 | Parenting

It’s February – the month our thoughts often turn to love, Love, LOVE. And not just romantic love – love for family and friends and teachers and sometimes even the whole wide world!  And in case you’re looking for a little something special for your child as a Valentine’s gift – stop by KidSnips. For one week only you’ll find 20% off all toys and games – it’s our way of showing our gratitude for you. (Offer available Feb. 12-19, 2023, on all regular-priced, in-stock merchandise only. Cannot be combined with other offers.) 

There are all kinds of ways to show love to the people in your life on Valentine’s Day.

But there’s one you might not think of immediately that’s a proven smile-maker. It’s gratitude.  Yes, gratitude – a few simple words and gestures of thanks and appreciation may even be more powerful than you imagine.

Recent research has shown that expressing gratitude affects us on a hormonal level – it releases oxytocin which builds a greater connection and bond between people. The Greater Good Science Center out of the University of California Berkely has research that suggests, in fact, that oxytocin is the “glue” that holds us together. What is oxytocin? It’s a neuropeptide naturally produced in our bodies that increases feelings of love and happiness and plays a big role in bonding behavior.

The effect of oxytocin is so powerful that many people have started calling it the “love hormone.” And one of the ways you can up the levels of the love hormone in yourself and in others is by expressing and receiving words of gratitude. What’s even more amazing? When you make expressing gratitude a regular part of your family routine, it can actually have lifelong effects – there are a number of research studies that show that teens who are grateful are “happier and more satisfied with their lives, friends, family, neighborhood, and selves. They also report more hope, engagement with their hobbies, higher GPAs, and less envy, depression, and materialism.”

Speaking of telling each other how grateful we are for each other – we are SO grateful for our KidSnips family –every parent and caregiver and child who walks through our doors at KidSnips. We’re grateful for every one of you who trust us with your wiggly, squiggly, fascinating, curious, kind, funny, silly and just plain adorable little ones – when we have scissors in our hands, no less! We feel honored to be with kids for their first cuts and for all the cuts and styles and colors that come after that. And we’re so grateful for the teens who still come to KidSnips long after they can no longer fit in the fire engine chair because they know that we see them, we listen, and we care. We’re also grateful for you parents of kids with special needs who bring your kids to us because you know we will treat them with respect and work with them as individuals, in a way that’s most comfortable for them. And we’re also grateful for our stylists and all our staff who come to work every day not only to make sure your kids get great service, but also to help us fulfill our mission of keeping childhood fun…for everyone.

(Oooh, it felt good to say that – must be the oxytocin…!)

If you’re interested in expressing more gratitude in your own family, Valentine’s month is a great time to start.  With all the paper hearts and candy hearts and heart-shaped cookies your kids will be eyeing this month, you can easily use this as an opportunity to talk to your little ones (and middle and high schoolers too for that matter) about how one of the ways people feel most loved is when we pause to notice and appreciate things about them.

Here are three simple ways to teach your kids about expressing gratitude.

1. Make “I’m grateful for ________________” Valentine’s cards for family and friends.

Get some paper and markers and glitter and scissors…and you name it. Get as creative as you want. Cut out some heart shapes together and decorate, decorate, decorate! Then ask your kids to think about someone they care about and try to think of one thing that person does that makes your child feel happy or thankful and write it on the card.

If your little one needs prompting you might ask, “Is there something your sister does that you think is really nice?” Or “Is there something about your dad that makes you feel lucky he’s your dad?” Or “Is there something that your friend does that makes you happy?”

Not only will they have some wonderful hand-made Valentine’s cards to share, you will have also taught them about the importance of telling others something specific they appreciate about them.

2. Give a gift that means more.

You may like to give your kids gifts for Valentine’s. That’s great. But another way to teach them about the importance of gratitude is to give them a gift with a card or note that tells them WHY you got this particular gift for them. For example, if you get your child some art supplies as a Valentine’s present, you can write on a card or tell them in person, “I’m really thankful for all the art you make.” Or if you give them a game, you might say, “I feel grateful when you invite friends to play games with you – and make everyone feel included. So, I thought you might enjoy this new game.”

3. Share your heart, every day.

For a fun family activity for the month, cut out 28 hearts to clothespin on a ribbon or pin to a bulletin board. Then every day during the month take one of the hearts down. (If you have more than one child, you can have your kids take turns getting to take the heart down each day.) Then each person in the family holds the heart and says one thing they are grateful for that someone else in the family has done that day. It could be as simple as “I’m thankful mom made macaroni and cheese for dinner.” Or “I liked that my big brother played a game with me today.” This is not only a great way to feel the love this month, it also teaches your children the power of daily gratitude…they learn how good it makes them feel to have others notice them and share words of appreciation for them, EVERY DAY. And it also shows them the power of showing gratitude for others.  Who knows, this might turn out to be such a feel-good experience it becomes something you’ll want to continue to do when the month is over.

Whether you get a chance to try any of these activities or not, we hope that you and your family have a wonderful Valentine’s month, filled with plenty of oxytocin!

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