Gratitude is a word that is often overlooked and taken for granted. I know I moan a little when I hear it. Yes, I should have a grateful attitude. It would make me feel better, you feel better, everyone feel better. Why do I resist it like I do? Do you resist gratitude? What about your family? Your children?
I don’t know that gratitude is naturally ingrained in us. I think it’s something we can all express and create in ourselves, but if there is never an example to follow or encouragement to feel gratitude, I don’t think that it will be a consistent a focal point of our day to day living.
I really try to teach my kids gratefulness. It is natural for them to feel entitled to the things that they have. They are treated well and they have many people surrounding them daily that love and cherish them. It is wonderful for their self confidence and I am grateful that they have this foundation to grow from. However, with all these people and all the love and adoration also comes stuff and the idea that they world revolves around them. We struggle with keeping our things nice and our room tidy, with cleaning up after eating and playing, with choosing not to eat what has been prepared. They have so many choices in life and it is wonderful! But without a grateful attitude towards all the wonderful, it feels superficial and empty.
We have talks, often in the car, about what other’s lives are like. Some children do not have warm winter coats when it gets cold out. Some children do not live near their grandparents and get to see them all the time. Some children and families are not able to live in a big comfy house like we do.
Some children, some families, other people…
It can be overwhelming for them and hard to grasp at the same time. I don’t want to be graphic, but I don’t want to downplay it either. I just don’t want them going through life unhappy about what they don’t have when so many are happy with so much less. I want them to understand situations from other’s point of views. I want them to know empathy.
This has been on my heart lately and as November is the month of Thanksgiving (and just prior to the excess of the holiday season…) I have come across projects for children and families that focus on understanding and expressing gratitude.
Ann at A Holy Experience is a beautiful writer and her words are soothing. If you feel like taking this from a Christian perspective, she has wonderful ideas and a peaceful explanation of her feelings on it.
(pic from AHolyExperience.com)
She also offers a free printable version of a Thanksgiving Tree, which is beautiful.
(pic from learnplayimagine.com)
A Feather a Day, Thanksgiving Turkeys are a fun craft for kiddos and once the milk jug turkey is created, place a feather on him for each day that has something that you are thankful for written on it.
(pic from innerchildfun.com)
Making a Gratitude Jarplaces the grateful activities in the hands of your children. They come up with a list of things they are gratful for in advance, write an activity down on a note card that will express this gratitude and then each day a card is picked from the jar and the activity is completed.
(pic from findinghomeonline.com)
Making a Thanksgiving Runner for your table is a great interactive way for your family, as well as exteneded family that may be joining you, to express their gratitude and make it the centerpiece of your feast!
A simple evening bedtime ritual can instill a grateful attitude as young as one can speak. Counting your Blessings before bed can focus your subconscious on the good, rather than the bad. Not a shabby way to a good nights sleep either, right? I know I tend to replay the bad or the to-do list in my head before falling asleep and it’s far from relaxing or healthy.
(pic from KidActivitiesBlog.com)
Similarly, keeping a journal about what we are thankful for will help you get the thoughts out and will become a cherished keepsake for you as your children grow.
Also, doing things for those less fortunate will open up anyone’s eyes.
A company that I work for supplies full Thanksgiving meals to families in our area. As employees, we donate the items and the Turkeys and extras are provided by the company. This year the kids are shopping for the items with me so that we can donate them.
We have also been focusing on doing away with excess in our lives. Toys, clothes, things….stuff that we are not using, but others could. We have been in the process of getting ready for the new baby and rearranging rooms, so this has been the perfect time to purge and also help people.
When I was a kid, my parents were active in the Christmas Families project through our church. Our church family would “adopt” families in need and we spent many nights at Christmas time wrapping gifts and assembling the needs and wishes of each family. I know the gifts I wrapped were not the prettiest, but they got to the families that needed them and that made me feel good.
These are just a few ideas. Obviously, there are countless causes and ways to give…to learn and show gratitude. But as we enter this time of giving and thankfulness it tends to be overshadowed by the sales ads and mall Santa Clauses. There is no better time to highlight what the season is truly about and use it as a teachable “moment.”