Would you prefer to listen to this article? Use the audio player below.
Thanksgiving is a natural time for teaching thankfulness. From an adult's point of view, Thanksgiving and the following holidays often bring a higher degree of work and responsibility than our usual routine. If we are not planning for a houseful of guests on Thanksgiving Day we are preparing to travel, often with children in tow, to meet up with friends and family. There's the usual frenzy of shopping for the big feast, getting the house in order, perhaps decorating, and cooking. If we're not doing that the frenzy is getting clothing in order, packing everyone's belongings, making plans for the family pets, preparing the house to sit empty for a period of time, and getting transportation plans made. Whichever is your situation, it's more work than your usual routine.
I'm wondering….can we approach all these tasks with a thankful heart? Can we teach thankfulness and change our behaviors? Rather than feeling overly burdened, fatigued, and fragmented is it possible to approach each additional task with an inner sense of thankfulness? Are we able to foster an attitude of thankfulness in our children for this holiday and every day? Can we find a sense of thankfulness even if we are not particularly pleased with the extra work, or with celebrating the holiday elsewhere even though we may prefer to be at home?
Seems to me that our challenge is to live in the spirit of what Thanksgiving is – to be thankful for all we have, even if life isn't so much going our way in the moment. If a child is unhappy about traveling to see grandparents rather than spending the long weekend shopping with friends, how can we bring that child to being thankful that she is able to travel when many of the world's children can neither travel freely or have enough food to eat on a festive day? If we are silently snarly over having to spend our holiday visiting with in-laws we don't feel close to, how we can turn our attitude and our hearts into thankfulness that we have family when many people are completely alone?
No matter our particular Thanksgiving situation, how can we model day to day thankfulness so strongly that it infuses itself into every activity? How can we live the spirit of Thanksgiving every day of the year?
It's a special and endearing practice to share around the Thanksgiving table what we are thankful for in the past year. That's one solid step in practicing thankfulness as a way of life. Here are a few ways to add thankfulness into each day, strengthening our own sense of well being and, importantly, modeling thankfulness as a way of life to our children.
- At dinner or before bed, list aloud 3 things that you are thankful for that day.
- Express your gratitude to others by thanking them for small things they do.
- State your thankfulness as you shop for what you are able to buy and bring into your home, remembering people who cannot.
- Offer a perspective of thankfulness for day to day situations, both good and bad
- Foster a thankful attitude in family and friends, not by nagging but by modeling thankfulness yourself
The trick is to lean into an attitude of thankfulness that permeates all our days and teaches thankfulness. Thankfulness replaces whining, complaining, and spoiled behavior.
What else do we get for fostering thankfulness? Research shows “benefits of expressing gratitude as ranging from better physical health to improved mental alertness.” Additionally, at least one study found that “habitually focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life is related to a generally higher level of psychological well-being and a lower risk of certain forms of psychopathology.”
Harry Ironside, an American-Canadian preacher, said it best. “Thanksgiving is the enemy of discontent and dissatisfaction.” If those two feelings are present in your home, try teaching thankfulness as the antidote.