As y’all know I adore autumn, so it’s no surprise that it makes me a little sad to see the red and green peeking out from store shelves before I’ve even gotten Halloween costumes figured out!
Wait, don’t accuse me of grinching just yet…
I adore my winter holidays too, both Chanukah and Christmas are dear to my heart. I just hate and love that sometimes Thanksgiving seems to get lost in the onslaught of red and green.
I hate it, because Thanksgiving is the holiday that represents something I find imperative to parenting. I love it because Thanksgiving is a little less tainted by the commercial, I don’t feel the compelling urge to “TAKE BACK THANKSGIVING!” To me Thanksgiving is about family and togetherness and love, but it’s unique focus is GIVING THANKS. “Thank you,” is one of those phrases that affects the chemistry in your brain whether you say it or hear it. According to scientists studying gratitude at the University of California, Berkeley people who practice gratitude have stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure, higher levels of positive emotions, experience more joy, optimism, and happiness, act with more generosity and compassion, and feel less lonely and isolated. Saying, “thank you” is brain yoga!
I’m all about #30daysofthankful, but my challenge is to fill your house with it and expertly program it into the brains of your minions, I mean children… Here are 5 of my favorite ways to teach gratitude:
1. Make sure your kiddos catch you expressing gratitude. Make it a point to say, “thank you” when someone holds the door, to the person checking you out at the grocery store, and especially to your spouse and close people (sometimes we forget the people right under our noses!)
2. Make a gratitude tree or gratitude journal to display! There are a million ways to do this, it can be a centerpiece on your Thankgiving table that each person in attendance contributes a leaf inscribed with what they are most thankful for to be shared during dinner, it can be on a wall where each person adds leaves throughout the month, or with littles a family activity where everyone talks about things to add together. search it on Pinterest for more examples!
3. Have your children write their own Thank You notes at the first possible opportunity. My son has been scribbling on them since he could wield a crayon! In the beginning I would talk about why we say thank you and who we were writing to, now we talk about what he liked about his gift and how happy he was that people thought about him on holiday/birthday xyz and what thank you means. I try to keep it fun by doing one or two at a time and we talk about the person it’s for.
4. Take an afternoon and go through all of your stuff and their stuff, help them and you pick out some things to donate. It’s the perfect opportunity to make space for holiday gifts and talk about being grateful for what you have. I find that throwing my stuff in the donate pile helps drive home giving as a family versus we’re taking your stuff. We have permanent donation boxes in our dining area.
5. Say, “thank you” to your minions. Say it when they try to get the diaper bag out of the car and spill it in the driveway, say it when they grab a diaper for you, or give their sibling a hug. Say it and mean it even when you’ve had to cajole them for 30 minutes to get their ever-loving shoes on the wrong feet. It will not only stop the furious rage boiling in your throat, but reinforce how much you appreciate it when they do what you’ve asked.
How does your family teach gratitude? What’s your favorite way to give thanks?