15 Oct 2015 Practical ways to practice thankfulness
by Brittany Gilbert
I need to be better at practicing thankfulness. There are so many ways that I am blessed and so many people that I appreciate, yet I rarely take the time to say a simple, “Thank you” or return an act of kindness.
However, I want to raise my kids to have thankful hearts and to show appreciation. So in developing a system to teach my kids, I realize I can learn from these methods myself.
Ways to practice thankfulness:
Donate time or money to an organization.
It doesn’t have to be much, but it will make a great impact and give you an opportunity to talk about how blessed you are to be able to provide time or money to help others who are less fortunate.
Our oldest son, Canaan, has recently become obsessed with giving an offering at church. This has been an easy way to talk about how blessed we are that we can bring the money that God has given us back to Him. It certainly doesn’t have to be money, and in fact, it shouldn’t always be money that you give. Sometimes, it can be way too easy to give money, but then we miss out on the real need in our community.
An excellent way to show your kids how to be thankful is to get involved with a local charity organization. One year, I took about 60 high school students to a local Dream Center, and they were blown away at how the things they throw away are considered treasures to so many people. They definitely left that day with a thankful heart as well as a more giving heart.
Keep a gratitude journal.
Every day you write one to three things you are thankful for that day. The goal is to be specific in order to avoid mundane responses. For instance,
“Today I am thankful that my mom cut my sandwich into star shapes” instead of simply saying, “Today I’m thankful for mom or for food.”
Use a chalkboard or dry erase board and post it where everyone can see. It can be a great dinner table discussion. There are even several apps to choose from if you are more of a tech person.
Every day, tell someone that you’re thankful for them.
It may seem weird at first, but with time and practice, it will become a natural act of kindness. People love to be appreciated, but most of us don’t take the time to show appreciation. Some of the people I admire the most are the ones who don’t let an opportunity go by to tell someone that they are thankful for something specific.
Whenever my kids do something nice for one another, I make sure to point it out and ask them to say, “Thank you.”
This is more than simply thanking a waiter for bringing your meal — although that is a good place to start. What I’m talking about is intentional gratitude. Let someone know that what they do is being noticed and appreciated. Maybe your child can thank their teacher for the way they always make them feel loved and valued in class. There are so many ways that we can let the people in our lives know that we value them.
Thanksgiving break is coming up and it is a great time to practice ways to show that you are thankful. Thanksgiving crafts are nice and can be a good way to get the ball rolling. If you need a way to keep your child entertained at home during the break, look up some Pinterest crafts for Thanksgiving and have your child write or tell you, and you can write the things they are thankful for on the craft and give it to a family member.
Or when you’re in the car traveling to visit family, make up a fun song or just talk as a family about what it means to be thankful.
Again, it’s about being intentional. I don’t know about you, but I find myself saying that I am so thankful and so blessed, but I often neglect to express my feelings to the people I am thankful for.
Brittany Gilbert is a former FACS teacher at Maumelle High School. She and her husband, Levi, have two sons and live in Conway. Brittany can be reached at [email protected].