Gratitude. Not only is it essential to being a generally good human being, but it also leads to better sleep, a stronger immune system, experiencing more positive emotions, and being a kinder, more compassionate person. Seriously!
Like anything else, flexing these muscles so that they can develop into robust habits starts young. If you’re like me and are constantly searching for ways to inject gratitude into your own life and the lives of your children, then keep reading. We have 4 great ideas for how you and your family can practice gratitude, this month and onward!
1. Keep a family gratitude journal. Make it a habit of consistently- whether it’s every night at dinner or every morning before school- having one person say out loud or write down what they are grateful for that day. Not only is it a great practice (and even acts a bit like a time capsule!), but it will be a tangible reminder over the years of how many things we have in our lives that are good.
Feel free to journal beyond “I’m thankful for my family”. Going into more detail, such as, “I’m thankful for my dad, who packs my lunch every single day” is not only beneficial to your dad, who gets to hear thanks, but for you to find all the ways you’re thankful for your family.
2. One of the best ways to give thanks and show gratitude is to spend your time giving back to others. There are tons of opportunities this time of the year (and all year round!), so pick at least one and make it a team effort. Volunteer at a clothing or food drive. Deliver blessing bags to homeless neighbors. Rake your elderly relative’s leaves. Whatever it is, get all members of the family involved, and focus on ways that you can go out of your way to show compassion.
3. On that note, you can also try random acts of kindness! One of my new favorite things to do is send a friend, or even acquaintance, $5 in a cash app like Venmo, with a simple note saying, “I’d love to buy your coffee today. Thank you for _________!” Not only does it surprise someone and make their day, it’s an excellent way to celebrate the actions and character of those around you. Allow one of your children to choose someone every week to bless this way, either through something like a giftcard or a handwritten note.
4. I found this idea on this website, but here’s a good one that kids of all ages can take part in: give thanks with popcorn! When making an afternoon snack or popping popcorn for movie night, tell the children to shout out things that they’re grateful for as they hear the popcorn popping. See how many you can all shout out before the popping stops! What a fun idea!
No matter what you decide to do this holiday season, remember to take pauses to think about, verbalize, and act out your thankfulness. Not only are you doing yourself a favor, but you’re teaching your kids tools to be healthier, more well-rounded members of society.
We’d love to hear your ideas on how you practice gratitude, personally and in your family! Please comment below.
Rachel is a wife and mother living in Raleigh, North Carolina. She’s a fan of good coffee, wearer of gray t-shirts, and is constantly starting books she will never finish. Her family is her joy, and she loves to engage with other moms and dads on matters of parenting. Her blog posts have also been featured on the Today Show Parenting Blog and Scary Mommy.