Research confirms that regularly experiencing gratitude makes us happier. More than just happiness, adults, children and adolescents who report feeling gratitude are healthier, more content, more optimistic, and more likely to be helpful to others. They're also less materialistic, less envious and more satisfied with life. When we struggle emotionally feeling grateful can heals us. The deeper our gratitude the more we get out of life.
Thanksgiving is coming up and as parents we have the ability to create a family experience that is focused more on meaning and gratitude
rather than overwhelm and stress. Intentionally bringing gratitude and positive emotions into our celebrations and family gatherings can help us feel more peaceful, content, and connected as a family.
Here are 10 ideas to help you get started creating your own meaningful family traditions.
1. Modeling. Modeling is the best strategy to develop gratitude. Note aloud how lucky you feel to have this day, this bountiful meal, terrific family and friends, and most importantly to have each other. Comment with appreciation on your blessings and your children will follow your lead.
2. Make a toast. During the meal, clink your glass, make a toast of gratitude that you all get to be together. Go around the table, having each person saying at least two things they're grateful for.
3. Blessing tablecloth. Ask everyone to write 3 things they're grateful for, their name & the date on a plain white tablecloth using permanent markers. You can repeat this tradition annually with the same cloth and your children will look forward to the tablecloth every year, even as teens.
4. Have children help create a gratitude banner. Use what you have in the house to create a gratitude banner to decorate your dining room on Thanksgiving. Visual reminders bring quiet moments of positive reflection.
5. Display the year in photos. Take the time to collect your favorite photos of family, friends and adventures over the past year and display them in the entry hall on Thanksgiving.
6. Send gratitude notes to friends and family far away. Sending gratitude notes for Thanksgiving would be a welcome surprise for loved ones who can't be at the table with you. You could also send an e-card, call them on Skype or use another method that works for you. The point is to connect.
7. Invite friends into the kitchen to help cook. Assign family and friend’s kitchen duties you know they can handle, and everyone will feel more useful, connected and have more fun.
8. Read. Look for books on gratitude and read them with your child. Talk about what gratitude means and what you're grateful for.
9. Play and end the day outside. Take a walk, play tag, or sit around an outdoor fire talking and playing games. Being outdoors, playing games and getting in touch with nature brings connection and happiness.
10. A thank you at bedtime. End the day with reflections about how each member of the family enjoyed the day. Remember to thank each other for the wonderful day.
It’s really our loved ones who make Thanksgiving special. Make a commitment to adopt new family traditions that highlight gratitude, love and connection. Commit to helping your children appreciate the caring and loving people around them. It starts with family. From family we expand to appreciating and giving to the community and world around us.