It was a cold dreary Monday morning and I was driving to school. In my mind at the moment, driving in the rain was the last thing I wanted to be doing. Feeling grateful on that gray morning was the last sentiment that surfaced in my still groggy, morning mind. I would have much rather been curled up under my covers, waiting for the clouds to pass. Out of the corner of my eye I saw some movement on the other side of the street. As I turned towards the movement, I realized that it was a women running for a bus in the rain. She hoped that she would make before the bus closed its doors and continued on it’s way.
My entire perspective changed in that moment. I suddenly was flooded with gratitude. Gratitude that I was riding in a warm car (and that I had a car). Gratitude that I didn’t have to brave the inclement weather to get where I needed to be. I was so grateful for the things that I had in my life that made my life more comfortable.
Gone was the dreary rain, gone was the Monday morning, gone was the feeling of wishing that I was still under the covers. It was a lesson that became deeply a part of me and helped to teach me yet again, how grateful I should be for all the wonderful things in my life. And that is the way that I have tried to live, feeling constantly gratitude for the little (and big) things in my life.
When I got to school that morning, I told my students what had happened. I hoped to instill a bit of gratitude in their tender minds, knowing that life had much to teach them before they truly would understand this lesson. And yet year in and year out, I tell the same story to my students, hoping that they will catch a glimpse of the blessing of feeling gratitude, every moment of our lives.
What Are We grateful for?
So how can we get our kids feeling more grateful? Well the first thing to do is to talk about all the great things that we have. When we make this a daily and weekly conversation, our children learn to mirror our thoughts. My mother used to talk to me about the gift of our faculties, our eyes, our ears, our limbs and I hope that I have never taken them for granted. The more we bring attention to these gifts, the more our children will appreciate what they have, be content and learn to cope with disappointment.
Another proven strategy is to journal with our kids about something we are grateful for each day. Some parents sit with their child for a few minutes a day with their kids once they are in bed. Together they write down in a journal one or two things that happened during the day that made them feel grateful.
This is a great practice to start on Thanksgiving and continue each and every day. A great journal to use is The Five Minute Journal – A Happier You in Five Minutes a Day. This is unlike other journals that are open ended. This is structured to truly take only five minutes a day and a great way to appreciate the good in our lives even when we are so busy. Some kids may really take to the idea, and want to write in their own journal. Here is a Gratitude Journal For Kids for those kids to write in and make their own.
Cooking with Your Kids
Family time is so special and this is something that is easy for kids to participate in and appreciate. Involve kids in the festivities, in cooking and preparing special treats. Most kids love to help in the kitchen, so organize your plans so that you are not rushed and would rather not have them underfoot. With a little planning you can have them peeling sweet potatoes, cracking nuts, or making desserts. You can get great ideas for traditional winning dishes here. As you cook together, talk about the blessing of family being together and the ability to share your abundance with others.
Teaching gratitude is easier when we have found our own ways to appreciate the things that we have in life. And sometimes this takes reflection on our part. It is so easy to feel that our lives could be better if things were different or if a certain person was not in our life. And then there is always the trap of feeling that we don’t have enough.
Feeling grateful is the fastest road to happiness, although it does take work to continually feel grateful. Once we regulate ourselves to see the good all around us and to find happiness, the world will look a lot brighter.
Is Something Holding You Back?
What happens when we want to be grateful, but there are things in our lives that are holding us back? We all have experiences that sometimes keep us from being able to see the good. If you feel that you are in such a situation, it is always important to discuss whatever’s holding you back. Sometimes we need to speak to friends or sometimes we might need to see a professional. If something is holding you back from seeing the good in your life, do not ignore this. The greatest gift you can give your children is a happy, grateful you, and if you can’t be that for them; take care of it, don’t delay.
And if you are feeling grateful and want to impart this to your kids and one of your children is having difficulty appreciating the good in their lives, you’ll want to address this too. Sometimes kids feel anxious because of things that are going on around them. If your child is anxious, find out what’s going on. Is s/he is feeling stress at school, or feeling pressured by a friend? Perhaps there is something going on between siblings or s/he is sensitive to pressures at home.
If your child is anxious, try to talk to him/her and find out what is going on. Try to help him/her through any difficult time s/he is having. Reassure him/her that his/her feelings are normal and see if you can help alleviate the anxiety. Again if the situation demands, seek professional help.
There will always be issues in our lives that make us uncomfortable or that we wish could be better, but gratitude trumps them all. It is the feeling of gratitude that helps us to overcome so many difficulties in our lives. Gratitude does not come easily but for those that learn to cultivate it in their lives, a treasure awaits them. And it brings continuous wealth to our families.
This Thanksgiving with your help, your kids will recognize all the things that are grateful for. And you have given them a true gift for life. Happy Gratitude!
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