Let’s be honest. Most of us have not been our most grateful selves this year. All of us have experienced some sort of pain or loss. Unfortunately, when we aren’t grateful, we aren’t silent either. Often our lack of gratitude results in a lot of complaining, whining and other negative behaviors and emotions.
Brain science has taught us that negative emotional states can become a sort of habit, just like negative behaviors. If we don’t break the negative complaining cycle this year has created in many of our lives, we may be stuck in ingratitude many years after COVID has passed.
There are some fun things you can do to remind your family how to be grateful. While these activities are often surrounding the actions of others, it’s important to remind your kids that every good thing given and every perfect gift is from God. (James 1:17) Each activity you choose to do should end with a prayer of thanksgiving to God.
Gratitude graph. This is a great way to break bad habits. Choose a time period…perhaps between now and Thanksgiving day. You can draw a large thermometer graph like you see in fund raisers. Figure out your goal of the number of things for which you want your family to be grateful. For example, if you have four people in your family, you may want to set a goal of an average of three gratitude entries for each person each day and then add a few more as a stretch goal. To make it more challenging, limit the number of entries one person can add in a day and don’t allow repeats. You may want to write each entry down and look at the completed list again on New Year’s Eve.
Turkeys of Thanks. Trace your kids’ hands and let them decorate them as hand turkeys. On each turkey, write a thank you to someone and send or deliver it to them. Try to include people others may forget to thank, like garbage collectors or someone living alone.
Gratitude Game. Grab some dice and something to record answers and keep score. The number of dice you will need depends upon how difficult you want to make the game. Before playing, come up with a list of gratitude categories, like people, places, foods, etc. By each category, place a number. If you are playing with one die, you will need six categories. Two dice will require twelve categories, etc. Each person takes a turn and rolls the dice. He or she must then say something for which they are grateful in the category matching the number rolled. To make it difficult, keep track of answers and don’t allow repeat responses.
Leftover Love. Have prepackaged Halloween candy leftover? Instead of eating it all, why not share it as a way of thanking others? Place prewrapped candy in plastic or decorative bags. Add a note of thanks. Then deliver it to the person. (Please be respectful and follow masking and social distancing guidelines to keep others safe.)
Gratitude Gifts. Is your family creative? Can you make small gifts with your kids and deliver them with a note thanking recipients for something they have done for you? It doesn’t have to be something expensive. The thoughts in the note will mean as much, if not more, than the gift it self.
Thankfulness Tea. Find teas where the tea bags are individually wrapped in paper. For extra germ protection, you may want to place the tea bag in a plastic baggie as well. Attach a thank you note decorated with “Thanks for being tea-rrific!”
Gratitude Walk. Take your kids on a walk around the neighborhood or on a hike somewhere. As you walk, take turns calling out things you see for which you are grateful.
Taking the time to be intentionally grateful for the rest of this year will not only break poor habits, but hopefully establish the healthy habit of constant gratitude to God for His many blessings. It’s a great way to spend time with your family.
How was your week? Are your children growing towards God or away from Him? You can go to our blog and search for posts that may help you with any of your Christian parenting dilemmas. Here are this week’s social media challenges.
Monday: Here’s the U2 room in a museum. What music do your kids enjoy? Did you know it definitely impacts their moods and even aggression levels? Whether or not it impacts other behaviors is still debated and probably depends somewhat on their personalities. Thinking about Philippians 4:8 though, do they really need curse words and words of hate in their heads and coming out of their mouths? Not all music of any genre has questionable lyrics, but having discussions about artists whose music always contains profanity and extremely ungodly messages is important.
Tuesday: A recent study found anxiety and depression levels improved in teens during the first two months of COVID lockdown. Why? Researchers believe teens were finally getting close to the recommended amount of nightly sleep and were getting more engaged attention from their parents. The take away? Teens need 8-10 hours of sleep each night and plenty of engaged time with their parents each day to help them more easily reach their godly potential. It’s in everyone’s best interest to take the lessons learned and use them to help our teens be healthier in every way.
Wednesday: Your kids are different – even if they are identical multiples. They will need slightly different things from you to build a strong spiritual foundation and grow to their godly potential. The trick is discovering how God created each one of them…their strengths, weaknesses, gifts, talents and even preferences. Having that information will make your Christian parenting much more effective. Can’t figure it out? Don’t be afraid to ask and see if your kids may have already figured out some of the answers.
Thursday: Your perspective changes when you fly. You can see things you wouldn’t notice from ground level. Sometimes you need to take a big picture view of your parenting. Who do you want your kids to be as adults? What sort of Christians do you want them to be? Are they moving in that direction? Is their faith strengthening, stagnating or growing weaker? Are they become who God created them to be or who Satan hopes they will be? Then make any needed adjustments in your parenting.
Friday: In Bible times, idols were physical images of false gods that were worshipped. Your kids are more likely to grow up to worship less obvious idols like money, careers, sports, entertainment…anything that is placed above God in their lives. You need to teach your kids about idols as much as parents in Bible times did. You will just have to define what idol worship is instead of pointing to the figurines.
Last weekend, I had a Zoom reunion call with about 30 people from my floor in my freshman dorm in college. Some of the people I hadn’t seen since freshman year. Others have woven in and out of my life at various times over the decades.
We were one of the most diverse groups of people you have ever met, but as we shared stories and memories, we realized what an impact those friendships from decades ago had on our lives. Some of the influences were little, like introducing us to new foods or musical groups. Others had us reconsider ways of thinking or influenced choices we made.
Your kids probably started making friends at very young ages. Those early friendships were primarily managed by you and the other parents through play dates. As your children grow older though, they will take the lead in their friendships. Some will be for a season, while others may last a lifetime. All will impact them in ways small and large.
As a Christian parent, you hope your kids choose friends who will help them grow and become their best selves. You pray for friends that will support their faith and beliefs. Are there things you should do as a parent to help guide your kids in their friendships? Are there things you should avoid? Here are eight of our best tips on navigating your kids’ friendships.
Talk about the qualities of great friends. These conversations will take different forms, but should occur periodically over the years. Ask your kids what they look for in friends. Talk about your friends and why you chose them. Share about friendships that helped you and friendships that hurt you. Remember, as much as you want your kids to choose good friends, you want them to be a good friend, too.
Be the host house. Make your house kid/teen friendly. You don’t have to own every toy and gadget. Often just the willingness to have them come over and feed a few extra mouths is a draw to your kids’ friends. It also helps if you can tolerate noise and have a sense of humor when things get a little silly.
Actively listen when your kids’ friends want to talk to you. Most young people don’t have enough adults in their lives willing to really listen to them. You don’t have to have all of the answers, just caring enough to listen and ask interested questions makes a huge difference to many young people. Plus it gives you glimpses of their hearts.
Ask your kids thinking questions. Don’t immediately give your opinion when your kids share something one of their friends said or did. Ask thinking questions instead. This is especially important if your child tends to react more than be proactive. What did your child think of what was said or done? How did they and others feel about it? What might it tell them about what the person is thinking or feeling? Some young people are more likely to reach an acceptable conclusion when you let them work it out instead of telling them. You just need to guide their thinking by asking questions that may not occur to them.
Teach being kind to everyone, but allow them to choose their closest friends carefully. Most young people don’t have what it takes to take someone making a lot of poor choices and magically turn them into someone who makes great choices. They shouldn’t, however, be unkind or exclude others from playground games or lunch tables. It’s okay for them to have friends who are kept close because they are supportive, kind and make consistently good choices.
Remind your kids they will often become like the people with whom they spend the most time. Because we were older, we were a little more qualified to pick and choose what we took away from our friendships in our dorm. Children and teens are not always that discerning. They need to think carefully if they want to be like the people in a friend group before they join it. Conformity is often expected and they need to be sure the group has norms with which they want to conform.
Avoid forbidding friendships. Often, parents who struggle with their own relationships with their kids believe their only recourse is to demand their child no longer spends time with a friend the parent doesn’t like. This almost always backfires. It either causes resentment and places additional strain on your parent/child relationship or your child goes behind your back and continues the relationship. Neither is a good outcome. Often, working to improve your relationship with your child will eliminate the need they may feel to choose friends they know will irritate or disappoint you.
Get to know the parents of your kids’ friends well. You don’t have to be friends with them, too. You do need to know, however, what sort of boundaries they set and enforce for their kids. This is especially important if your child will be spending time in that home. I can’t tell you how many horror stories I have heard over the years of kids being molested at sleepovers by a friend’s dad or given free access to inappropriate media, alcohol or drugs. Some kids will let you know when they have had a bad experience, but others won’t. Your kid will survive going to a “half” sleepover, rather than spending the night better than they will a traumatic incident. Most families are perfectly safe, but you won’t know whether or not your kid is safe until you know the parents.
Friendships in childhood and during the teen years can be a minefield. Staying involved, without controlling and micromanaging, can help your kids learn how to make friendships that will help them grow to be who God created them to be.
Kids often think if they can just have the next new thing, they will be happy. As adults, we’ve hopefully learned that we can’t fill the space in our lives meant for God with things. There is always something new or something better or something more. Rarely, does a greedy person ever believe they have enough money or “stuff”.
There’s a fun family devotional you can do with your kids that involves an object lesson. Before your kids join you, find a tin can that has a safety cut lid with no sharp edges. Put about an inch or two of fingernail polish remover with acetone in the can. (Remover without acetone won’t work.) You will also need a huge pile of styrofoam packing noodles.
Call your kids together. Tell them about King Solomon. Remind them he asked God for wisdom, so God said He would also grant Solomon wealth because he had chosen wisdom. Read them 1 Kings 10:14-29. In today’s money, Solomon’s worth is estimated to be $2 trillion!
But when he was older, Solomon wrote the book Ecclesiastes because he learned a hard lesson about money and things. Ask your kids to make a pile of styrofoam noodles that will fill the can you have chosen. Slowly begin dropping one noodle in at a time. As you drop a noodle, ask your kids what are some of the things they would buy if they had $10. With each noodle, raise the amount of money they can spend. The noodles should be dissolving in the acetone. (Reminder this is a toxic chemical and should be watched carefully around children. Dispose of properly afterwards, so they don’t mistake it for water and drink it.)
Eventually, all of the noodles in their pile should be gone and the can still hasn’t filled with noodles. Similarly, if you made the jumps in money small enough, there should still be things they want to buy. Now start adding the remaining noodles from the original pile. Note that the can never fills with noodles and they never run out of ways to spend the money.
Explain that the acetone represents the greed that can grow in our hearts. We can feed it money and things, but it will devour them and still want more.
Read 1 Corinthians 6:10. Ask your kids what God would prefer us to have in our hearts other than greed.
The holidays will be here soon. They may look a little different from previous years, but you can still create special memories with your kids. They key is to start planning now. Here are this week’s social media challenges.
Monday: Even famous composers made mistakes. You will make mistakes as a parent. What matters is what you do after you realize you’ve made a mistake. If you try to ignore it, it can have negative consequences for your kids. The best option is usually to apologize to your kids and make any needed corrections. It works whether you’ve been too lenient or too harsh. Your kids will respect you more for an honest apology (whether they like your subsequent adjustment or not), than for doubling down on a parenting mistake.
Tuesday: Did you know many museums have artifacts from Bible times and cultures? Doing a little research before you go will make it easier to show them to your kids and underscore the historical nature of the stories in the Bible.
Wednesday: Have you ever thought about how many stories in the Bible involve food? Why not introduce your kids to some of those foods as you tell the Bible story to them? Connecting those extra senses to the story will improve their memory of it. Plus it’s a fun way to have a family devotional!
Thursday: Family crests contained things families believed represented them or held as family values. What would your family’s crest contain? Would God have a place on it? Give your kids paper and markers and have them design a family crest showing the four most important things to your family…that explain your family to others. Have them explain their finished crests. If God has no presence, even minimally, on their crests…it may be time to adjust your family’s priorities.
Friday: Miss seeing our blog posts? We are still trying to find out why Facebook won’t let us post links. You can get the three weekly posts delivered straight to your email by going to our website and signing up for our newsletter. (Remember to open the emails, or some programs will send it to spam. www.parentinglikehannah.com) Get encouragement, ideas and tips three times a week (we don’t share your info with anyone).