As we prepare for Thanksgiving in the midst of a pandemic, national distress and the struggles of everyday life, it can be difficult to actually give thanks. It is probably easier to complain! And who is watching and hearing every grievance? Our children. I know because my 8-year-old echoed my sentiments about the late delivery of sushi, completely bypassing the fact that we were having sushi for a special GNI (Girls Night In) movie night. The delivery was not the most important thing missing, the spirit of thanks was.
1. Discuss what gratitude actually is with your children. As a child I was told to say thank you and did because it was polite but there is something different about understanding the expression and really giving thanks.
2. Create family rituals/practices the promote the spirit of gratitude. Our family ends each day by listing all the things we are grateful for, specifically for that day. From a sunrise, a good grade on a difficult test, a call from a friend, to a chocolatey piece of cake, it all reminds us that there is much to be appreciated about life.
3. Practice random acts of gratitude. Start now! What can you give thanks to in this very moment? Just this simple question helps us refocus the energy behind complaining. If I start complaining about what should have/ could have and why, I can go on for hours. But when we shift those thoughts to what can we be thankful for now, we can probably go on for at least a few minutes. Random acts of gratitude are opportunities to practice before the grumblings begin.
4. Does living a gratitude mindset mean that there are no frustrations and complaints? Absolutely not! Life is filled with small moments of annoyance to those heartbreaking losses and disappointments. It is important to feel those feelings! However, it is all the practice of living in gratitude that makes those difficult moments more manageable. A spirit grounded in gratitude reminds us that life, despite what may be going on in the moment, is filled with opportunities to experience joy again.
5. We all have our share of suffering, some more than others. A part of our gratitude practice is to acknowledge those who are in much greater need. There are so many people who endure suffering, from food and housing insecurities, lack of health care, mental health illnesses or simply marginalized or forgotten. While one's suffering does not minimize the other, it is important for all of us, especially children, to understand that we do not all live the same way and many things that we take for granted are not available to all. It reminds us to give when we can, where we can and how ever we can.
As we approach Thanksgiving, in the middle of a pandemic, among the variety struggles that many face, let us begin the spirit of gratitude today and every day. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones!