Thanksgiving should be exactly that – a day of giving thanks to God for all of the blessings in our lives. Yet, Christian families should express gratitude on a daily basis. It’s sometimes easier though to see what is missing in our lives than what is there. As a result we can fall into the habit of complaining more than we express gratitude – to God and those around us. And since habits are often contagious in families, if you have forgotten daily gratitude, so have your children.
There are lots of fun things you can do with your kids to express gratitude – not just on Thanksgiving or during the month of November, but all year long. Here are some of our favorites.
- A gratitude bucket. For some reason, in Luke 6:38 when Jesus talks about blessings being tamped down and overflowing (because we have given a lot back to God and to help others ourselves), I think of a bucket. Dollar stores often sell small buckets to use for decorative purposes. Place your blessings bucket in the middle of your kitchen or dining table with slips of paper and pens beside it. Encourage family members and visitors to write the things they are grateful for on the slips and place them in the bucket. Periodically, pull out the slips and read them as a family. How quickly can your family fill the bucket with gratitude? Can you fill a full sized bucket with gratitude, too?
- A rose amongst thorns. Is your family having a particularly bad day – or series of days? It’s okay for everyone to vent, but put a strict time limit on it. Then spend twice as much time talking about the blessings God has given you that day in spite of the thorns you had to endure.
- A gratitude wall. It doesn’t have to actually be a wall, but find a large space you can cover with paper. Encourage family members to cover the “wall” with the things for which they are thankful. Make sure the paper is thick enough to keep the writing from bleeding through or you may need to repaint the wall after all. If you want to go all out, paint a wall or an area with chalkboard paint and provide chalk for people to use to decorate your gratitude wall.
- A family gratitude journal. Take some time at the end of each day to sit down as a family and add a few entries to your gratitude journal. To make the time a mini family devotional, share a few verses of scripture and end your journaling time with a prayer of thanksgiving for all of your many blessings.
- Gratitude baskets. It could actually be a little token of some sort or a card or note. Periodically, spend time as a family creating thank you items for those to whom you are grateful. Pay special attention to thanking those who are often forgotten, like garbage collectors, mail carriers, Bible class teachers, kind neighbors, restaurant servers and store keepers. Discuss with your children how often we take people for granted who are helpful or kind. Remind them to constantly thank others each day.
- Gratitude tsunami. This takes a little more effort, but can make the impact of gratitude more obvious to your children. Help your kids plan and execute a gratitude tsunami for someone like the school janitor or custodian, a bus driver or the person at church who is always especially kind to children. What’s a gratitude tsunami? At a specific time on a particular day arrange for as many people as possible to flood that person with notes, tokens of appreciation and verbal gratitude. The bigger the “tsunami” your kids can execute, the more obvious the impact of gratitude on others will be.
Have fun with it, but make sure your home is filled with gratitude. You will all benefit from it.