Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to celebrate the blessings of the harvest of the previous year. Yet, we have tons to be grateful for each day, not just once a year. And the question is, do we teach our kids to be appreciative and grateful?
To be honest it is easier to focus on the negative and what’s lacking in our lives. This is especially true for parents of kids with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
Many times we are just resentful of all the stuff going wrong: the IEP statement that was not what we hoped for, a hurtful comment from a stranger in the supermarket about our child’s behavior, a child’s refusal to eat dinner. Sometimes it seems that the list goes on and on, but if we can stop and take a minute every day to focus on being thankful for what we have and to cultivate that ability in our children we are giving them a powerful tool for life.
Easier said than done. The following are some tips, with a focus on the sensory aspect to cultivate thankfulness in our children.
Thank- You Notes: Everyone loves receiving thank-you notes. And by taking the time to make a personalized thank-you note with your kid you help them focus on the positive and be more appreciative. Try making a sensory thank-you note. Use glue and colored sand to encourage the use of the tactile sense. You can give a thank-you note to your child’s therapist after a session, or even to a friend who came over to play.
Have your kids help you with house-hold chores. Carrying grocery bags, opening up the door for you, carrying a stack of dirty dishes from the table. Not only will they appreciate just how much we do for them they are also getting important sensory input to their joints and muscles from the heavy work ( which has a calming and focusing effect on the body),
Donate old toys. Does your child really need 5 tractors of the same type in his playroom? Is there a doll your daughter outgrew? Getting rid of redundant toys in the playroom will help kids who have visual sensitivities and who become overstimulated from too much input. Less is more in this case. But don’t just throw them out. Tell your kid you’re donating it to a charity or better yet go with them to the charity to drop off the toys. They will learn to realize that they have a lot and be grateful for it.
Teach your kids to be grateful for the food you prepared for them. Mealtime might not be easy for kids with sensory defensiveness, and although they might be picky eaters it is not necessarily that they are ungrateful for their food. Still, in the process of helping them deal with food issues we can still imbibe in them a sense of gratitude for their food. One way to do that is to prepare a nice atmosphere when eating dinner: use paper napkins with a cartoon character they like, light candles play music. Give them the feeling that dinner time is important and don’t be upset if they don’t eat their food the first time. In time the right therapy will aid the process. But at least they will see that eating is something important and to be appreciated. If you are eating with older family members you can prompt them to say thank-you out-loud for the food prepared. Thanksgiving dinner is a great time to try this. Enjoy your turkey!