By Tammie Allegro
It always seems like that last three months of the year fly by. Maybe it's because Christmas items are already on sale before the last trick-or-treating kids have received their candy. Not to mention the mad planning for Black Friday shopping. It seems we practically skip right over the month of November and the Thanksgiving holiday. I recently saw a comic that had a Thanksgiving turkey telling Santa to wait his turn. Although it was just a comic, it really struck a chord with me. I realized I didn't want to rush through this month. I want to make sure that my family and I remember what it is all about. Yes, we celebrate Thanksgiving, but do we really show our appreciation for our blessings?
With the wonders of Facebook, several of our friends having been posting each day what they are thankful for. I think it is great, and I even jumped on the bandwagon. But somehow, just saying each day what I am thankful for doesn't feel genuine enough. It also doesn't teach the lesson at home. So, I began asking myself how I could instill my family with a stronger sense of gratitude for the life that we have been blessed with, from the triumphs to the tragedies and everything in between. I did a little research to see how other people teach gratitude in their homes, and I found some great ideas that I thought I would share:
Make a gratitude tree
- Start with a picture of a tree. It can be small and sit on your table, or you can make it bigger and put it on a wall in your home. Each day, every member in your family writes one thing they are thankful for on a paper leaf. On Thanksgiving, the family reads them after dinner.
- Encourage your family to include struggles and things that are not material (i.e., an iPod).
- Write daily in a journal, always starting with what you are thankful for. Share these at Thanksgiving dinner.
- Help family members to recognize the tough times in life as things to be grateful for.
Say "thank you" to your children
- Sounds simple enough I am sure. However, we forget to thank our children for the simple things. If an older child sees you thanking their little brother for washing his hands without being told, they will be more inclined to say thank you for things you do for them. Our children mimic our actions and will learn to say thank you by our example.
Volunteer to serve the less fortunate
- Many foundations serve meals on Thanksgiving and throughout the year. Volunteering to serve meals or to help prepare the meals teaches all of us to appreciate the blessings we have.
- If going out and serving isn't possible, you can write letters to our active military.
- You can also adopt a family during the holidays. Many military families will be away from their families during the holidays. Or their spouse might be deployed, and they won't have family nearby to spend the holidays with.
Donate used toys and clothes
- Each year, before your children's birthdays and Christmas, go through their clothes and toys and find items they can donate. This helps keep down the clutter, as well as teaches them to give to those in need.
Just say no
- The more we give our children, the more they expect. Saying "no" teaches them that not everything in life comes easy.
- Teach kids to earn things that they want - especially big-ticket items that will break the bank.
- Educate your children when they say things like "But it's only …" and "I need it." Teach them the value of the dollar.
It is so important for everyone in life to appreciate what they have; even if that means appreciating lessons learned from an illness or a financial struggle. Every event that happens in our lives shapes us into the people we are meant to be. People who are strong are only strong because they have endured much and gotten through it. There is a great quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson that reads: Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.
How do you teach gratitude? What are you grateful for?