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.