One positive thing about our current situation: it’s a great time to teach kids about gratitude, and brainstorm creative ways to say thank you.

We’re all wishing we could hug our loved ones or give a high-five to those who are going above and beyond. Instead, though, we need to be resourceful and look for alternate ways to share the love.

These days, anyone and everyone can benefit from a message of positivity. There are the obvious choices to reach out to, such as family, friends and front-line workers. If you think a little deeper, though, there are others who could use an emotional boost. Single parents. The elderly. People living alone or far from home. A kid who doesn’t have siblings for company. A dedicated teacher. A family that has recently suffered a loss.

That said, many of us may be feeling short on time, resources and patience right now. How can we be expected to send uplifting messages to others when we’re just barely staying afloat ourselves? Please know that these ideas are not meant to add to your burden – they’re just suggestions if your household has the time and the inclination. Maybe you’ve been wanting to do something positive but aren’t sure how. A gratitude mini-project might give you and your kids a sense of purpose and a feeling of giving back.

Here are some ideas to consider:

Draw. Kids love to draw, and we need cheerful images like never before. Depending on your child’s age and interests, this may take the form of a colouring page, painting, original drawing, comic strip, sticker art and beyond. Look online for opportunities to share artwork in your community – for example, at a retirement home, hospital or local business. We have a family friend who works for a transportation company, so my kids created some “thank you” artwork to be displayed at their headquarters and on their social media feeds.

Write. School-age kids can write simple messages with sentence starters like “Thank you for…” and “I am grateful because…” They may want to start up a pen-pal relationship with a friend, cousin or older relative (grandparents especially love traditional letters). If you have stamps on hand, kids can even practice addressing an envelope and experience the rare sensation of delayed gratification.

Click. Of course, paper-based artwork and letters can also be shared electronically. Scan and e-mail the masterpieces or snap a photo with your phone. One technical tip: thick, dark-coloured marker tends to be more visible on-screen than pencil, pen or lighter shades of ink.

Text. A quick message asking “How are you holding up?” takes mere seconds but can have a big impact at the other end. I am not super text-savvy myself, but I do find those personalized Bitmoji cartoons entertaining when people send them my way.

Call. Phone calls and video chats are another way to show you care. My kids’ great-grandmother doesn’t see very well, but hears just fine, so phoning her is far more meaningful than sending a card. And, thanks to FaceTime, you can brighten a lonely grandparent’s day by showing them their grandchild’s smiling face and zany antics, live.

Record. Let’s face it: there are moments where we’re simply not up for a Zoom chat. Be opportunistic by making short videos when you and your child are in the mood to perform. When your little one is having fun with something (such as a book, toy or costume) that was a gift, take a quick video, then send it to the gift-giver to show your appreciation. If you have musical or singing talents, play a song and share it – please!

Capture. If a picture is worth a thousand words, all I can say is: thank goodness we’re living in the age of digital photography. Send images of your kids, your pets, the flowers blooming in your backyard, crafts you’ve made, LEGO you’ve built – the sky is the limit. In fact, if a friend says it’s raining where she is, send a picture of your blue sky!

Decorate. Walks around the block used to be drab, but they now feature happy splashes of colour in the form of sidewalk chalk designs, window-mounted artwork, painted rocks and other cheery touches. You can also add a pre-made or homemade sign to your front lawn to show your appreciation for local heroes like front-line workers.

Showing gratitude or thoughtfulness can be a surprising way to fill your own bucket. Externally, you’re likely to receive an appreciative response, and internally, it’s satisfying to know that you did something nice for someone else. It can also be a useful lesson (or reminder) that small gestures can make a big difference. Imagine this is a giant game of “pay it forward,” and everyone is playing together. If we all take a turn, we’ll all win.


Kristi York is a freelance writer and mom of two sports-loving boys. Her work has been published by ParentsCanada, Running Room, ParticipACTION and The Costco Connection.

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