I’ve been thinking about gratitude all week – beginning with the message in church last weekend. It’s so easy to get caught in the busyness and challenges of day-to-day life and forget all that we have to be grateful for. For me, my gratefulness centers around the people in my life. First and foremost are my kids – it’s hard to believe that my oldest will be 28 in a few months, so I’ve been parenting for almost 28 years, but it is truly the highlight of my life. I’m also grateful for my husband and my extended family, especially as my parents have been facing some health challenges in the last few months. Lastly, I’m grateful for a handful of friends who have truly invested in my life and come alongside me as partners and mentors. It is such a special relationship to meet someone and have your friendship grow to the point that they are like family to you, but I have been so blessed to experience that several times in my life.
I was very fortunate to meet one of those special people when she was expecting her 5th child and I was fairly newly married with no children yet. We lived across the street from each other for about 9 years, but during that time I had my 2 oldest children and was able to learn so much from her about parenting as we spent time together and built our friendship. As I’ve gotten older, I have always wished to have someone that I could mentor in the same way that I was mentored by her. Luckily for me, I do have the opportunity to build into my staff and the families at the preschool, which is one of my favorite parts of my job as a preschool director.
So how can we teach our children to focus on gratitude, especially in this climate of entitlement? Some of the tools I’ve used through the years include teaching them to say please and thank you (when they say thank you, not only is it polite but it helps turn their mind towards recognizing and appreciating the things others do for them rather than taking it for granted); saying one think they are thankful for each night at bedtime; during the month of November we write/say one thing we are thankful for each night at dinner – this allows us to express our gratitude for one another and also go beyond the bigger things we are typically grateful for like family and friends and consider the breadth of the things we have to be thankful for, and writing thank you notes for birthday and Christmas gifts. If your child enjoys writing or drawing, give them a gratitude journal to write/draw what they are thankful for. If they are more active, maybe play charades with things they are thankful for. Obviously, the key is just to provide a lot of opportunities to be mindful of all of the blessings they have and expressing their gratitude for them.
To that end, I am so thankful for all of you and the positive comments you’ve left for me, and the time you take out of your day to read my thoughts and experiences about parenting. Don’t forget to tell your children that you are thankful for them today!