I think we can all agree that gratitude is a good thing, that we want to be grateful people ourselves, and that we desire grateful hearts in our children. Like so many things, we can have these great ideals, but the application can be challenging. Just because I want a clean house does not mean that action is taken towards this at all times (which would be completely unrealistic). However, when you keep an ideal before you, you are more likely to claim opportunities to act towards this value when they arise.
While there are numerous Pinterest-worthy ways to practice gratitude with kids, consider keeping it simple. If you want a big, creative endeavor and that feels life-giving, go for it! I know at our house, the day-to-day can kind of feel like pure survival, so like in many things, simple is more likely to be sustainable.
Recognize the importance of gratitude.
Gratitude can change us. Practicing gratitude is significant. It changes how we think and feel and interact with the world around us. It’s meaningful. So, simply by valuing gratitude, you are more likely to already be encouraging gratitude development with your children.
Notice the small things.
So many times we are in such a rush that we don’t pay attention to the small things. When we look around and pay attention, we are more likely to see and notice beauty, comfort, blessings, and goodness. Developing the ability to take delight in small things is a grounding practice that can help when things are not going so well. It provides context for the whole story, so that we can take comfort and delight in small blessings.
Model gratitude for your kids.
Consider your own posture and relationship with gratitude. Our kids pay attention to how we interact with the world around us. Sometimes this can feel like a lot of pressure, but remember this is not about perfection, it’s just about being aware.
Intentionally name what you are grateful for:
- This might look like commenting with your children on how grateful you are for fall days, the color of the trees, the chance to drink apple cider together, etc.
- This might look like writing down what you are grateful for on post-it notes, on a pumpkin, on a dry erase board.
- This might look like saying a blessing before a meal and giving thanks.
- This might look like going around the dinner table and each sharing one thing you are thankful for.
- This might look like passing a ball back and forth with a child and calling out what you are grateful for.
- This might look like telling gratitude stories and retelling them again and again.
Gratitude and emotions.
Sometimes, we have this erroneous belief that tougher emotions and gratitude cannot exist at the same time. We might think we have to be 100% grateful all the time, yet so many things are more complicated. We can be frustrated at the power being out in a storm, and yet so grateful to have a home. We can be disappointed not to have made a sports team, yet grateful that we can still play sports on our own.
Practicing gratitude does not mean that you have to ignore or deny what is hard or that your children have to do this. We can have room to feel and express emotions and practice gratitude. Emotions and gratitude can co-exist.
In this way, practicing gratitude may not always equal happy emotions at all times. We are more complex emotionally and feel all kinds of emotions, all the time! Yet, practicing gratitude does have an impact on our overall well-being.
One of my favorite ways to practice gratitude with our family is getting outside together. We are so incredibly grateful for the beauty around us both in Chattanooga and in the surrounding mountains. Being outside is so good for each of us as we enjoy quality time, movement, fresh air, and just an appreciation of the gift it is to live here. Be sure to check out this blog post on family friendly hikes around Chattanooga as well as this post about Fall events in and around Chattanooga.
In closing, weave gratitude into the fabric of your family life. Like many habits, it just takes some intention on the front end, yet gratitude can become more of the norm for your family if it’s not at this time. More natural, more continuous, more ongoing. Kind of like taking a breath or reaching for a sip of water. Intentional, yet also natural.