This weekend we had dinner at our house with some close family friends. They’ve been one of the very few families we’ve allowed into our circle since the pandemic started. We set everything out and started to dig in when my son stopped everyone to say, “Wait! We have to say what we’re grateful for!”
The other family was thrown off guard since this was new for them when eating at our home. We just began this practice at our dinner table about a month ago and it has gone surprisingly well. We all held hands and each took turns saying what we were grateful for, including the three- and four-year-olds. There was nothing religious in nature, just a moment of connection and grace. I couldn’t have been more proud of my son.
Too often the idea of gratitude is only discussed at end-of-year holidays and its significance is lost in the meal prep and shopping frenzy of the season. If we want to raise adults with character, then they must absolutely be aware that our society stays afloat because of basic human decency all year long.
Yes, the world is full of selfishness. It’s also filled with sacrifice, generosity, and heartfelt concern for our neighbors. By giving more of our attention to those positive aspects of society by regularly expressing our gratitude, we uplift those virtues in our children’s minds and hearts as well as in our own.
When we speak about things that went right each day, we change the focus of our lives from what we don’t have to what we do have and make our relationships to each other the center of our universe instead of whatever product is being advertised.
Ideas to encourage gratitude
- Write thank-you notes to teachers, family, friends, etc. Try to do them by hand and have younger kids decorate with stamps or drawings.
- At one family meal per day, say what you’re each grateful for. Nothing is too small or insignificant.
- Point out people doing tough jobs in tough weather and mention how their sacrifice makes your community better.
- Have the family choose and perform a random act of kindness once per month.
- Write a quick note of thanks in the comments box of your next online take-out order.
- Tell your kids you appreciate their help. Let them hear you and your partner say it to each other as often as you can.
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Somer is the Chief Content Officer at Raising Families living in Southern California with her husband and five-year-old son. She spent 10 years in the architecture field as a designer and medical planner and now applies her love of integrative thinking and big-picture planning to her family and career. Read full bio >>