Inspired by the Holidays: Imparting the Discipline of Gratitude to Your Child Who Is Blind or Visually Impaired

doodle of children smiling, holding hands, saying Happy Thanksgiving

Last year, Emily Coleman blogged about teaching social skills over the holidays; it’s a must read. And if you read it last year, it’s a must re-read.

Inspired by Thanksgiving, I want to address the specific social skill of gratitude. It’s really more than a social skill; it’s a life skill, or more accurately, it’s a “this is the secret to living well” and “this is the secret to healthy relationships” discipline. We, me at the top of the list, can quickly become miserable if we forget to intentionally notice and appreciate good things; gifts; what we do have; who we are; and the efforts of friends, family members, and others who assist and encourage us.

Now take this a step further in the life of a child who is blind or visually impaired. Often, sometimes out of necessity and sometimes out of ease, this child is one who requests much assistance.

It’s very easy for this child to identify with the role of being helped, and then consider others as useful tools.

If he doesn’t learn to be thankful and thank others, he will miss out on balanced relationships and eventually burn out his friends, siblings, and later his coworkers. Like most concepts we teach our children, teaching gratitude and thankfulness begins with modeling the behavior in the home. Don’t forget, also, to express your gratitude and appreciation for each member of your family.

Next, you canmodel good manners. Please read the many examples in the linked blog that include noticing and describing how people are helping you. Explain the situations to your child as they arise, and verbally express your thankfulness in ear shot of your child.

Thereafter, teach your child the art of reciprocating support and favors. Read the linked blog to discover appropriate ways to thank and respect people who are helping you, your child, or your family. You can say thank you, write thank you notes, return favors, reimburse costs, and make or purchase gifts. Model this behavior; explicitly teach the behavior to your child; and expect him or her to practice it.

Yes, children are born self-focused, and this is normal and healthy. However, what’s not healthy is allowing a child to remain consumed with self. We must teach our children to become aware of what they can be thankful for; we must also teach an awareness of others, their feelings, and the efforts they invest in us. We must teach them to value others, respect their time and energy, and express gratitude to others.

The end goal is your child understanding it is okay to ask for assistance when needed, but it is important to maintain balanced relationships by thanking others, using good manners, and reciprocating support and favors.

As Thanksgiving is fast approaching, let’s use this week to refocus on teaching and expressing gratitude.