Expressing gratitude can be tricky … for kids and adults.

It’s so easy to freak out when we think we are raising ungrateful and unappreciative children… or we think others may think that of us. The reality is that gratitude can be tricky to manage and express – for adults, too!

Consider these two scenarios:

? Your partner takes you out for a special dinner, but instead of the fancy candlelight dinner you’ve been imagining all day, you find yourself freezing in line at a food truck.  Your partner is grinning at you – excited because this place serves the carne asada tacos that you like so much. But you just want to cry.

? You accidently found a gift receipt for your favorite store and are excited about the present you are about to open – finally you’re getting that sweater you’ve been wanting! You open the gift and it’s a pillowcase.  Seeing your confusion, the gift giver excitedly offers that it will help with the wrinkles on your face. Yep. Explanation doesn’t help. At all.

In both scenarios, it’s not that you don’t appreciate the giver’s intention or their effort, but in that moment, you are completely thrown off.

You’re flushed with emotions from surprise (and not the good kind) to disappointment (no crème brulée tonight??) to confusion (I was hoping to wear that sweater to the party tomorrow – now what?). Not to mention you’re freezing because you wore a nice dress expecting to sit inside a heated restaurant.

And for our kids – situations like these are even more difficult because children lack the emotional maturity and experience that is required to graciously express gratitude.

A few things to consider:

If you’re anticipating your children struggling with showing gratitude this season, here are some things you can do before the big day:

? Ooops …it happened anyway? Your child melted over grandma’s gift of marbles? No problem!

First, give grandma a smile and thank her for the thoughtful gift (this is also an example of modeling). 

Then later talk to your child about making repairs. Maybe they can write a thank you letter? Bake some cookies for grandma? Not only will the gift giver be appreciative, but it will also give your child an opportunity to make things right as chances are they probably feel bad about the way they acted. Then work on the steps above to work out a plan for next time. 

Rinse and repeat. ?