Y’all! It’s November, my favorite month of the year and home to my favorite holiday. Probably my very most favorite part of November is the focus on thankfulness. Y’all know I love to practice gratitude, if you have never done it, it will change your life. If you are grieving, in a funk or just feeling blue, practicing gratitude would be the first thing I would suggest you do. November is not the easiest month for me to be grateful in, it’s also the month my first son was born still.
November is bittersweet but I have learned to be grateful his birthday falls in the month of Thanksgiving so that I always remember to find the good and I do. Losing my son reminds me of how blessed I am to have two living children and how important it is to teach them the practice of gratitude and cultivate in them a grateful heart. These 5 practices have helped weave thanksgiving into the daily lives of my children and will serve them the rest of their lives because like it or not, one day, our kids are going to need to find the good.
Every night at the dinner table, we play the Hi/Low game. Each family member, even the little one, tells what the best and worst part of their day was. Part of the reason we share is to know what is going on with each other but also to remind our children that there may be hard things but each day brings something good too.
This simple game that we have played for years has taught our children to see the bright side of life. Many times when I complain now, I am so tired is a common theme, my son will say “at least tomorrow is Friday” or give me some other good news. What a way to get through a Thursday y’all. Perspective is everything.
2 Morning Gratitude
Every day we have a 25-minute drive to school so on the way there, we do a lot of talking. As you know, we do our daily affirmations and practice spelling words. We also all name three things we are thankful for. Sometimes it’s little things like a cold front or sunshine and sometimes it’s someone feeling better, friends coming back to school after vacation, new shoes or waking up to find out the Astros won the World Series, holla!
Recognizing three quick things we are thankful for first thing in the morning teaches your children to wake up in a state of thanksgiving, to literally start the day already being grateful and looking for the good! I always want to help my children set the tone for a great day and this is a perfect way!
3 Sibling Gratitude
I’m just going to tell you, last Christmas both of my children asked the Santa at the mall for a sibling. My son asked for a brother, my daughter asked for a sister. Can everyone just love the one your with already! Like all mothers of multiples, I spend most of my days being a referee. So as much as I try to convince my kids that they’re best friends and one day they will love having a brother/sister, the best way I have found to help them be thankful for one another is to have them list what they love about each other. I especially love this practice after a sibling fight! I have my kids tell each other three things they love about one another and I love you because you finally stopped crying is not acceptable, it has to be positive!
I have been shocked at how well this works and later have heard them repeat these things to friends or family members, “my sister is really tough” or “my brother makes me laugh, he is super funny”. The practice of saying out loud, even in the middle of a conflict, what they love and appreciate about each other has brought their deep down feelings to the surface. It’s a spectacular way to live out a sibling relationship.
Even as young as my children are, we talk about others in need but we take it a step further and have our children participate in serving others. Showing your child how unfortunate other children are in the world, is especially impactful. For them to know other young people, just like them, are living in poverty, as orphans or wondering where their next meal will come from is an eye-opener.
We talk about those suffering and how we can help and we find opportunities to serve alongside our children in our community. Visit retirement homes to cheer up the elderly; they absolutely light up around small children. Participate in Operation Christmas Child and let your children pick out the items to fill the shoe boxes. Take them to a local shelter or on mission trips to see first hand and serve on the front lines. Seeing real suffering or even talking about it helps them to recognize how silly their complaints are (that uncharged iPad) and to be thankful for how much they have. Service also makes you happier, healthier and more successful so start practicing serving others with your children right away.
5 Evening Gratitude
What you think about before you go to sleep can affect how well you sleep, what you dream about and even how you wake up in the morning. I want my children to always lay down to sleep at peace. I want them to feel calm, thankful and content as they drift off, so talking about what you are thankful for right before bed creates the ideal environment for sleep.
What that looks like for our family are evening prayers. We say our prayers together each night including being thankful for answered prayers. Listing specific things we are thankful for, like grandmother getting out of the hospital, mama’s cough going away, a new baby born healthy, and so on is a way to remind our children again what has gone right in the day.
This might seem like overkill to you, being that I incorporate gratitude so many times throughout the day but this is how I live, truly. If I didn’t appreciate the giggles from my children playing, I would probably be really frustrated when we’re 45 minutes late to bed and no one’s listening. If I wasn’t thankful for how my husband always makes me laugh, I might resent the clothes all over the bathroom floor. If you can’t see the good in all situations, with your family, your health, and your work, you are leaving a lot of happiness on the table, friend.
Cultivating a grateful heart in yourself and your children will change your outlook on life completely and the easiest way to do that is to create daily habits of thanksgiving. Teach your children as early as possible to look for the good in this life, it is one of the best life skills and coping tools you can give them. If I didn’t look for the good, November would never be my favorite month.