It was one of those crazy hard times. A lot was going on. Are you ready for the list that kept running through my head? Here goes, in chronological order: my husband was laid off, he found another job out of state, we moved, we became pregnant with our third child, which came with some pretty nasty morning sickness, and my grandmother’s physical and mental health declined dramatically, (she died about four months later).
It was a lot of change, really fast, and to top it all off the holidays were starting.
I felt overwhelmed. I hardly had time to cope with everything that had happened. I was down, who wouldn’t be? But I couldn’t show it. I needed to be there for my husband, my children, and especially my mother, who was the only surviving child of my grandmother, and dealing with enormous stressors of her own.
Then, my husband’s aunt issued a challenge.
She gave everyone in the family a small notebook and asked us to use it as a gratitude journal. At Thanksgiving, we would take turns reading excerpts from our days of thanks.
As I sat down to fill out my first entry, I had many things to be grateful for, but I had spent so much time counting the things that were going wrong in my life, it was hard to feel the gratitude.
I wrote anyway. I wrote about how blessed we were to find work so soon after my husband was laid off. I wrote about how happy we were to be expecting another baby. I wrote about how good it was to move close to our family just when they needed us the most.
In the midst of turbulence, so many things were right. In the midst of the tears and the trials, the Lord was still in charge. He had a plan.
We only needed to see the beauty and to give thanks. Since that time, I’ve made an effort to teach my kids to be thankful.
Over and over, studies show that being thankful and being happy are linked. So, at our house, we treat gratitude like a muscle, and we exercise it.
Every morning, while we’re eating breakfast, I ask the kids gratitude questions.
These are questions designed to help their little minds make the connection between happiness and gratitude. Often, children will say the same things over and over when asked what they are grateful for, and that’s OK, but these questions are designed to help kids find deeper answers, to understand what it means to be thankful. I try to bring each discussion back to the topic of gratitude.
For example, this is an actual conversation with my daughter,
What is your favorite thing to do outside?
What do you need to run?
“My legs and my feet, and I need energy to run.”
So, what are you grateful for?
“My energy? And you know mom, I am crazy to tell you this, but I can have energy for sixty hundred million years!”
That’s a lot of energy!
Are you grateful for all that energy?
“Yeah! My energy can never end!”
Since starting gratitude exercises, I’ve seen a better attitude in myself and my kids. It’s working! I hope you’ll consider trying it out. I’m convinced it will help your families too.
- What is your favorite thing to do outside? What allows you to do that thing?
- Name someone who loves you.
- Name someone you love. Why? Have you told them that?
- What is your favorite game to play? Why?
- What is the weather like today? What fun can come from, cloudy, sunny, windy, snowy, rainy, etc. weather?
- Imagine if we didn’t have a house, what would that be like?
- What is your favorite animal?
- Name two things that make you happy.
- What is your favorite body part?
- What is the yummiest thing you’ve ever smelled?
- What is the softest thing you’ve ever felt?
- What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
- Name something you’re really good at.
- Tell us about a happy memory.
- What is your favorite thing about mom, dad, brother, sister, etc?
These questions have started some hilarious conversations around our house, and we notice if we miss a day. What do you do at your house to foster gratitude? Let me know in the comments! Who knows, your tradition could change someone’s life :)