The Art of Giving Thanks is a Lifelong Practice

ovember is the month of remembrance and gratitude. What or whom are you grateful for?

As we all go through the hustle and bustle of the day (especially during the holidays), it is easy for us to forget that the art of giving thanks is more than just a polite thing to do, or a necessary manner to teach our children. Rather, at its heart, the entire practice of gratitude is a very healthy exercise for one’s whole life, both as an adult and a child.

It is well-known that a practice of gratitude is positively linked to one’s level of overall happiness. Furthermore, when gratitude is instilled at a young age, our children can grow into happier people. As parents, don’t we all want our children to be happy?

The practice of gratitude is emphasized throughout the year and especially throughout this month of November. However, at times, the "attitude of gratitude" appears to fall flat for some people, especially children. Why? Perhaps it’s because, we as parents, have guided our children through the motions of saying, “thank you” and writing thank yous, but we have forgotten to help our children reflect on why they are thankful, what they feel, and what they are truly grateful for.

According to The Raising Grateful Children Project at UNC Chapel Hill, gratitude has four parts: Notice, Think, Feel, and Do. Specifically, the Project identified that when you are truly grateful you first notice and recognize what you have in your life. Next, you think about why you have received a gift, who played a role in making it possible, and why that person did so. Third, you feel the positive emotions that come from receiving a gift from another person and connect those feelings to the real gift you received (such as kindness, generosity or love shown by another). Lastly, you "do" some form of action that expresses your appreciation.

In our world today, it seems that we as parents are very good at staying focused on this last step of "doing," having our children say, "thank you" for a gift. Whether it is due to a lack of time, lack of focus, multiple commitments, or just not realizing it, as parents we do not always ask or reflect with our children on why they believed they received a gift and what the gift-giver made them feel. These additional steps are crucial in truly expressing and feeling gratitude and its exponential benefits.

So, how do we get there? Well, start small. Teaching children the art of gratitude can be hard because by its nature, it is a very abstract topic. However, once your child exhibits a habit of “doing” the thanks, i.e. taking the actions of thanking another for something they received, you can begin a dialogue of asking reflection questions. Specifically, focus on their recognition of what they are grateful for, why they are grateful, how they feel about the thing they are grateful for, and then what they want to do in response to express their true feelings. You might also want to model for your child how you yourself thought, felt, and responded to another person for a gift you were grateful for in your life.

In the end, the goal is to not increase the "tasks" we have to do, but rather expound upon the good things in our life and why they make us feel good. Happy Thanksgiving! God Bless!

If you or someone you know is a mother in need of a group of mothers to share with and grow her own village, please visit our website at the link below and register to be a Mother of Monica. Go to groups/moms.

By Cheryl Thode

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