With its hours of planning, shopping, cleaning and cooking, the holiday season often feels demanding. During the Thanksgiving season, it’s easy to lose ourselves in an infinite to-do list and forget to reflect on what we’re thankful for, let alone communicate our gratitude to others.
Actively (and verbally) expressing gratitude produces significant benefits, not only for our mental and our physical health, but also for our relationships with God and others. Sharing our thankfulness and hearing others do the same strengthens our faith by reminding us of specific instances of God’s faithfulness. Similarly, taking time to express gratitude to your friends and family for their role in your life strengthens the bonds of love while inspiring better conflict resolution, communication and relational resilience.
With Thanksgiving upon us, now is a perfect time to boost your family’s gratitude practice. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
#1. Create a gratitude box
During the week, encourage your children to write notes of gratitude on small pieces of paper and add them to the gratitude box. At the end of the week, take out the notes and review them as a family, allowing time for conversation and reflection on their additions.
#2. Mail “Thanksgiving Cards” to friends and family
Christmas cards are a well-established tradition, but why not also send gratitude cards this year? Take one night as a family to sit around the dining table with a pack of cards and write notes of gratitude to the people you care about. Expressing specific reasons you are grateful for them will do nothing but lift their spirits!
#3. Create a gratitude tree
Choose an empty wall in the house and designate it the “gratitude wall.” Using sticky notes, encourage your family members (and visiting friends) to cover the wall with notes of gratitude during the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. This also makes a memorable activity for visiting family and friends on Thanksgiving day.
#4. Surprise grateful letters
Encourage your family members by collecting notes of gratitude for each of them and surprising them with these notes when they least expect it. You can have fun with this: leave notes in their car, on their bathroom mirror or under their pillow. Have them delivered to work with flowers or recruit local baristas to deliver them with their daily coffee order. The possibilities are endless. Whether simple or elaborate, practicing intentional gratitude towards your family members will bless and encourage them (and you)!
#5. Intentional conversation
Conversation is a primary way that children of all ages learn. Conversation teaches children how to express their views, listen to other people, and engage with complex ideas in a coherent and peaceable manner. Hosting a family conversation about gratitude will give your family (especially your children) the opportunity to practice these skills while also nurturing their personal practice of gratitude.
Some potential conversation starters:
- What is something that was hard to be grateful for in the moment, but that you are thankful for now?
- Why is it important to be thankful, even in hard times?
- How does being thankful serve as a witness to our faith?
God is wise in instructing us to give thanks in everything (1 Thess. 5:18). Cultivating an intentional practice of verbal and corporate thanksgiving will encourage your family as you navigate the demands of the holiday season.