Before it was trendy to keep a gratitude journal, I was doing it. Each day for years, I would scribble down five things that I was grateful for most days. It was a nice way to keep track of the positives in my life, but it was also challenging. There’s only so many times you can say that you’re grateful for your husband, your job or your pup. Eventually, I felt like the act of expressing gratitude was being surpassed by the monotony of doing it every day.
Naming the things we’re grateful for should be the easiest thing imaginable, if you listen to the think positive crew online. But the pressure to always say thank-you or be #blessed can also be exhausting. That’s never been more true than in 2020. We’re dealing with a pandemic, remote learning, a politically divided country and a social justice reckoning, so it’s understandable if gratitude isn’t the emotion that you’re consumed with ever day.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, here’s some advice for finding gratitude, and teaching your kids about it at the same time.
Change The Framing
When I realized that I was burned out on filling book after book with thinks I was thankful for, I changed tack. Rather than five items of thanks, I started jotting down five memorable moments from my day. Most of those were positive, but some of them weren’t — and yet together they gave an accurate picture of the life I wanted to remember.
At the same time I started using this approach with my daughter, who is 6. Previously I had asked her what she was most grateful for over dinner or at bedtime. Now, I changed the question to “What was your favorite part of the day?”
That seems to be a bit more concrete for her. She might not be able to put together that she’s grateful for her friends or the area that we live in. But she can tell me that her favorite part of the day was hiking with the neighbors. I’ve found we have more in-depth conversations that touch on gratitude and appreciativeness, when we move those qualities to the back burner.
Point Out When Kids Feel Gratitude
Achintya Kolipakkam takes a similar approach with her son. When she notices him feeling grateful for something, she points out to him how nice that feeling is.
“The best way for someone to understand gratitude is when they feel it themselves,” Kolipakkam says. “When my child experiences gratitude from someone else, I make sure that he remembers how it feels. How pure it is.”
That leads to conversations about how he can make other people feel that same positive feeling. After one talk about gratitude, Kolipakkam’s son said, “I wish everyone could feel this way because of me.”
Lead By Example
Clarissa Sidhom’s kids are only 2 and 4, so they’re not yet able to verbally express their gratitude. However, she aims to show them how to be in a grateful mindset, even when things are tough. For Sidhom, that begins with not complaining about every little thing that goes wrong.
“I believe gratitude is caught, not taught,” Sidhom says. “My kids are so young that they aren’t really going to verbalize their gratitude, but the most important thing is to raise positive children who haven’t been programmed to complain and see the negative in every situation. The best thing I can do is work on that in my own life.”
This Thanksgiving is a tough one for many families. Kids who are already missing their friends might not be able to see their extended families for the holiday. Day to day life may be overwhelming right now, but incorporating gratitude into your life doesn’t have to be.
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