Behavioral Health

Helping Your Child Find Gratitude

By: MaryFran Anderson
A thankful heart.

A true treasure to be valued in our society where quite a bit of our culture prioritizes the idea of  “more”. If we’re honest with ourselves, I fear we’d have to admit that many minutes of our lives  revolve around the next best thing—and how to attain it.

For example, there has been many a time during this strenuous year, that I have dreamed about the days “post pandemic”. Now, of course that longing is not inherently bad in and of itself. Many people are struggling mentally, physically, emotionally, and even financially due to the beast that is COVID-19. I’m not implying that you need to deny yourself your authentic feelings around a situation like the one mentioned above. However, I am hoping to encourage us all, during this season of thanks, to not let our circumstances rob us of our gratitude. And, to give tangible ways we can help our children find this emotion and carry it with them throughout their day-to-day lives.

Helping Your Family Live a Life Filled with Gratitude
  • Lead by example. As I’m sure no one is surprised to hear, we start with ourselves. That said, you don’t need to have reached a perfect pinnacle of gratitude in your own heart to start leading your children down the road of thanksgiving. Start small and watch as your entire family grows into a more grateful and content unit. Like any habit, practicing giving thanks will help it to become more and more second nature rather than a forced chore. Try and start with something simple, like language. Make it a point to substitute positive statements in for negative ones whenever possible. This could also just look like you acknowledging (out loud) the little things throughout the day that you typically take for granted. If your child hears you processing how grateful you are that you can see the gorgeous fall leaves or that you get to enjoy a special dinner with your spouse, they will likely start noticing the little blessings around them as well.

It’s worth noting here that some days you will fail at this task miserably—I know I do!—but that’s when your gratitude for God’s grace and forgiveness can be highlighted. In fact, you can even let your children in on this concept. Don’t be afraid to say something like, “Mommy is having a hard time keeping perspective today. But, I am thankful that The Lord’s mercies are new every morning and that he meets me where I am.”.

  • Carve out time for your family to make gratitude a priority. That’s right, put it on the schedule. In our family, we try to do this at dinner time whenever we are all together. Everyone has to say one thing they are thankful for from their day and, while sometimes it feels forced, the practice always helps our conversation blossom into something meaningful.
  • Point out the upside, even when the chips are down. No matter your belief system, if you and your child can learn to find gratitude in the face of adversity, you will live a life with less fear, anxiety, and unrest. Reminding your child that, no matter what possessions they obtain or levels of success they achieve, circumstances are fleeting is a gift of truth that will continue to benefit them as they grow into adulthood.

The fact that gratitude may feel like the last emotion we want to embody this year is not lost on me. But, as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, what if we reset our minds and our hearts and utilize the powerful weapon of gratitude to tear down our walls of angst, fear, and doubt? What if we help our children find space in their lives to make thanksgiving a priority?

I’ve often found that joy, humility, and grace will overflow from a heart that has an abundance of gratitide inside of it. And, despite our varying believes and faith structures, I think we can all agree that those are valuable virtues anyone would be fortunate to posess.

Until next time,

MaryFran Anderson

Community Engagement Coordinator, mother of two, and guacamole enthusiast

  • Behavioral Health
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  • Fatherhood
  • Holidays at Parkside
  • Motherhood