Inspiring gratitude

Soon we’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving — a national day of giving thanks for the blessings of the harvest and of the past year. 

In our society today, Thanksgiving is typically celebrated with a gathering and feast. But, often, the thankfulness aspect of the holiday seems to be overshadowed by the emphasis on the commercialism on the day after — Black Friday, the compelling onset of the holiday shopping season.

Maybe this year we as parents can focus on finding ways to incorporate gratitude and kindness into our daily family life.

Doing so may even take some stress out of the holidays — and help us feel more grounded — during the hustle and bustle of the season. In fact, research supports the connection between practicing gratitude and well-being. 

According to the Greater Good Science Center, gratitude contributes greatly to human health, happiness and social connection. And mindful gratitude can elicit kind and altruistic actions, which, in turn, can trigger positive emotions. In short, being thankful can make us as individuals — and the people we’re around — happy!

Here are some ideas for you to inspire kindness and gratitude in your family:

Say thank you 

As a family, make it a habit to say a simple and genuine thank you when you’re on the receiving end of a kind act or gesture. This goes beyond a simple, “What do you say?” prompt for your children. 

Be a role model as a parent. Let your children hear you thanking your spouse for cooking dinner or thanking a restaurant server for delivering your food. And let them witness you writing a note of thanks to a friend — and then encourage your children to do the same.

Focus on the positive 

Life can be overwhelming, sad and stressful at times.

Keeping a gratitude journal or simply listing the things that make you happy can be uplifting when you’re down. 

When I’m frustrated or overwhelmed, I often look through photo albums or page through the archives of my family blog, which are essentially the highlight reels of my life. Even if I have children squabbling in the background, I can be reminded through snapshots of all of the blessings in my life.

Perform acts of kindness

Involve your children in acts of service and giving. Foster kindness by doing something nice for a family member, neighbor, friend or for community heroes such as veterans, first responders or members of the military. 

Participate in service projects. There are often many opportunities that present themselves around the holidays that can help others. You may even want to share the fun of performing random acts of kindness with your child. (There are some great ideas at randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas.)

Practice mindfulness

Take some time to give thanks with intention. 

This could be as simple as saying a blessing at mealtime or reflecting on the positive things that happened during the day through family conversations. 

Maybe this year you could expand upon or start a new Thanksgiving tradition with an activity, craft, game or family service project. (Pinterest has some wonderful ideas.)

Let’s make an effort this year to put the “thanks” back in our Thanksgiving holiday.


Megan Devine is an elementary school teacher and mother of four who lives in Northeastern Minnesota. Write her at mdevine@mnparent.com and check out her blog at kidsandeggs.com.