As Thanksgiving crept up on us, my husband and I started talking about our boys and how we might cultivate thankfulness in them. What was the key? How might we turn this Thanksgiving into a holiday truly focused on thankfulness?
(Does anyone else wrestle with this over the holidays?)
I don’t know about you, but each year I seem to begin November with the greatest of intentions, and end December wondering where in the world the time went.
I really don’t want to repeat that cycle this year.
Well, my husband and I didn’t come up with any revolutionary way to teach our kids thankfulness, but our conversation led us to a conclusion that perhaps was even more important:
We were reminded that gratitude…is contagious.
And that if we’re honest: We could use a bit more of it ourselves.
We talked about how there is no better way to teach our kids to be thankful than for us to live with thankful hearts every day.
Hearts and voices that are unmistakably, unashamedly, genuinely incredibly grateful for all of the blessings.
Because we all have blessings, don’t we? It’s just a matter of slowing down to appreciate them.
My husband and I started talking about all of the things we take for granted: From the air we breathe (Dave is a doctor and sadly witnesses patients struggling for their own breath…) to the family we have. (The thought of losing someone you love is enough to renew appreciation for them.) From food on the table (there are so many starving people in this world) to the freedom to worship God. (Sadly that is not the case in many places.)
If we take the time to imagine life without: a hot shower…a bed to sleep on…coffee in the morning (Please Lord never take my coffee!) a place to call home…we will be reminded of how VERY. VERY. BLESSED we are.
By the end of our conversation, my heart was literally bursting with gratitude. I realized (once again) that gratitude is a choice. Each day (and all day long!) I can focus on the things that frustrate me, stress me out, OR I can focus on my blessings.
In the wonderful book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch, there is a chapter called “Gratitude is a Choice.” Jeremy Smith is quoted there saying, “Loyola University psychologist Fred Bryan finds that savoring positive experiences makes them stickier in your brain, and increases their benefits to your psyche — and the key, he argues, is expressing gratitude for the experience.” Smith suggests being specific in our gratitude. “One of the habits of highly grateful people, according to Smith, is that they are thankful for the details, or as he puts it, ‘they mention the pancakes.'”
I love that!
So maybe more important than teaching my kids thankfulness is modeling thankfulness to them.
Perhaps my job really is to first cultivate gratitude in my own heart…then to speak out the things I’m thankful for all day long. To sing praises to the One who has given me everything. To tell stories of God’s faithfulness and to set a tone of thanksgiving in my home.
Then my kids will wake up on Thanksgiving and actually FEEL THANKFULNESS in the air.
In Raising Grateful Kids, Kristen outlines six ways we can all “train in gratitude.”
1. Write down what you’re thankful for as a family.
2. Watch your mouth (How we talk affects how we think. Keep it positive!)
3. Walk in someone else’s shoes. (and be reminded how much we have to be thankful for!)
4. Fill your home with visual reminders and stop to appreciate them. Signs…notes…beautiful things can remind us to be thankful.
5. Be specific. (“mention the pancakes”. also: “Grateful people don’t just say, ‘I love you.’ They say, ‘I love you because…'”)
6. Choose gratitude even in your pain. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I have a renewed excitement for Thanksgiving this year. Now I am looking forward to this special time to truly savor the blessings in my life. And as I do I have a feeling my kids will “catch” the thankfulness bug as well.
And we’ll all be better off for it!
*Kristen Welch also recommends that families (kids elementary age and up) memorize PSALM 23 together! These six verses can be easily broken down into segments to memorize over a month! (She recommends using the New Living Translation for this!)