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How to use birthday parties to foster gratitude

Gratitude is good for kids.

And birthday parties can be a teachable moment to help kids learn how to express gratitude—all while still having a blast with their friends and family, says Julianne Neely, founder of Individual and Family Connection in Chicago.

Start before their big day.

When thinking ahead to a birthday party, Neely suggests keeping a grateful mindset at the forefront when talking with your child about their special day. Ask questions like “Who would you be most grateful to spend time with on your birthday?” and “What were some of your favorite parts of being a 7-year-old?”

Encourage kids to give back as part of their celebration.

The birthday child could ask for donations to a nonprofit organization special to them, use a spa party theme as a reason to collect toiletries for a homeless shelter or have your animal lover ask for donations to PAWS Chicago.

You could also make the party itself a way to give back. Some charities like Feed My Starving Children host birthday parties or you could use the celebration as a chance to prepare and serve a meal at Ronald McDonald House or host a party at your house and do a project that benefits others, such as making blankets that you donate.

Such parties empower kids to make a difference, a gift that lasts long after the candles are blown out.

Focus on people, not things.

Neely suggests families minimize the focus on gifts–and maybe even eliminate them all together. One bonus, she says, is that parents can help kids focus on the gratitude for people spending time with them.


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This article originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of Chicago Parent. Read the rest of the issue.

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