By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
What are you thankful for this year?
This question could be hard to answer as the events this year have unfolded in ways than none of us could have ever anticipated. The natural response is to lament the fact that our worlds have been turned upside down in one way or another over the past 9 months.
While expressing our concerns is healthy it’s also important to remember to also spend time seeing and giving thanks for the good things in our lives too.
Negativity is an easy response when we are living bogged down with the stress of our daily lives plus the anxiety that the current news cycle seems to be constantly pushing on us.
Nonetheless, it is important that we model thankfulness to our children so that they can see that life comes with many good gifts and not just challenges that leave us upset and afraid.
As parents, our words become the voice they hear in their own heads. The ways we choose to reflect on our lives are a powerful model to our children of how they should view and interpret their own lives.
Given the chaos that has been 2020, parents across the globe are having to work twice as hard to help their kids feel that their lives are safe and good.
Unfortunately, we can’t control things like school closures or illness but we can help our kids see that it is possible to handle uncertain times while maintaining a thankful and joy-filled heart.
Our resilience teaches them to be resilient and see the world as a beautiful place even though life is unpredictable.
Why Does Gratitude Matter in Our Parenting?
Research shows that practicing gratitude helps change our moods and thoughts patterns. When we take time to be thankful or see the positive around us over the negatives oxycontin is released in our brains which helps to improve our mood.
When we make gratitude a part of our routines we can actually live a happier life. We train our brains to look for the positives in a situation rather than fixating on the negative.
Every parent desires to raise happy and healthy children. Modeling thanksgiving to our kids is a powerful way to help them grow up being able to maintain a sense of happiness in their lives.
Being able to reframe situations we face and then putting a positive spin on things is one of the traits of a resilient individual. We can’t know what struggles our kids face but we can give them the path to resilience that will allow them to find the good in life even when things feel hard.
Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year to go a little bigger on showing gratitude in our homes. This year many of us may feel discouraged, grieved, or disappointed because many of our normal holiday plans have had to change or maybe we have experienced losses over this year that make voicing our gratitude harder than ever.
Thanksgiving is an invitation to everyone to set aside our complaints and worries. We can take the opportunity to look for the silver linings and hidden blessings that are still present in our lives.
Here are 5 ideas on how to communicate gratitude with your family this Thanksgiving:
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/pondsaksit
1. Create and Display a Family "Thankful" List
When my kids were preschoolers we would get out some brown, green, red, and orange coloring paper and make a huge tree that we could add colorful leaves to that we wrote things we were thankful for.
Our tree wasn’t necessarily beautiful (although I am sure those who are craftier than me could make it into a masterpiece) but it was a simple centerpiece of thankfulness for the season.
For preschoolers cutting, coloring, and talking together about what to add to our tree gives them a hands on way to internalize that Thanksgiving is about gratitude.
As my kids have grown our practice has shifted but the idea of finding a way to write and display things we are thankful for has remained constant.
Now my kids can create more sophisticated art on their own and include whole sentences on what they see as the best gifts they have in their lives.
It is helpful for every person in our family to take time to create a list that is either artistic or simple of what we are thankful for in the days leading up to Thanksgiving. When we post our lists or art around our house we have a visual reminder that God is good and we can praise him for what he has given us in this season.
2. Photograph Things You Are Thankful For
If you aren’t into crafting or writing as a family why not let your camera do the work for you!
Transform your social media or your camera reel into a place to document things that you are thankful for as a family.
You could use the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving as a chance to catch as many beautiful moments possible and then print all your photos to display on Thanksgiving day.
Your display would make a great conversation piece as you gather with loved ones in-person or virtually.
These photos would point your attention to the good around you and maybe help to keep the conversation a little more positive this year. Not to mention your kids will probably love the chance to use your phone’s camera or get out their own digital cameras to capture the wonder around them.
3. Create a Blessing Tablecloth for Thanksgiving Day
Another fun way to get everyone involved in practicing thankfulness is to get a tablecloth that everyone can write on for Thanksgiving Day. Give everyone a marker and have everyone who joins you write and share things they are thankful for.
This offers a space to create and converse as a family about the joys you each have observed. It also is an invitation to your guests to focus on the good over while gathering to celebrate.
4. Cultivate Thanksgiving through Acts of Service
Perspective is a great way to grow your thankfulness. Sometimes it is hard to understand how blessed we are when we have nothing to compare our circumstances to.
Many are suffering this year and are in need of both tangible and emotional support. Thanksgiving is a great time to show some love as a family by diving into a service project in your community.
Seeing that you are willing to love others even in a year that has challenged us all is a great way to show your kids that they have the ability to make a difference, even if your circumstances aren’t perfect.
5. Create a Family Gratitude Journal
A gratitude journal is a sweet place to record what you are most thankful for as a family and add to the list each year. Being thankful does not mean that you have to minimize the toll that this year has had on your home but it does invite you to look for the ways God has been faithful through it all.
Taking time to record together and reflect on how God has provided for your home, especially through this harder season, is a great way to show your kids how God is at work even when we face challenges!
Psalm 77:11 says, “I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old.” God invites us to remember what he has done for us. It is how we stay encouraged and faithful. Our kids need us to demonstrate to them what it looks like to give God the credit for the good gifts we have in our lives.
No matter how uncertain our circumstances feel our kids thrive when we assure them that this world is a beautiful and safe place.
James 1:2-4 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
The Bible encourages us to view our trials as joy. It’s not easy to be joyful people when we are struggling but making the choice to give thanks anyways is a beautiful way to show your kids that our hope goes beyond our circumstances and is securely grounded in Jesus.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/evgenyatamanenko
Amanda Idleman is a writer whose passion is to encourage others to live joyfully. She writes devotions for My Daily Bible Verse Devotional and Podcast, Crosswalk Couples Devotional, the Daily Devotional App, she has work published with Her View from Home, on the MOPS Blog, and is a regular contributor for Crosswalk.com. You can find out more about Amanda on her Facebook Page or follow her on Instagram.