Counting the Blessings of Our Children
Reflecting on the Best in Our Children this Thanksgiving
As we begin our break for the Thanksgiving holiday, I am reflecting on how I might bring more gratitude into my life and my family’s life. I finished up our work/school responsibilities yesterday by attending my son’s parent-advisor conference at school. I felt well-prepared for that meeting thanks to last week’s article from Dr. Jenny Woo and as she predicted, the conversation began with problems-to-fix but I found myself able to shift the conversation to talk of progress, learning growth, social and emotional well-being and strengths on which to build. From that meeting in moving toward Thanksgiving preparations, I realized there’s more I can do to ruminate less on the details of the meal and the household and more on the gratitude I have for my son and my family. It’s easy to slip into a habit of ruminating on worries but that only produces more of the same (and doesn’t fix anything). Additionally, we are often engaged in trying to get others to reflect and participate. But change starts within particularly with a mindset like gratitude which can serve as a lens through which we view our lives and our loved ones.
So consider with me the benefits of ruminating a bit this season on the gifts, assets and blessings of the children in your household. I see multiple benefits including:
- a mindful awareness of loved ones and how they contribute to your life;
- An enhancing of your own sense of well-being as you not only accept but appreciate your children right where and as they are (not in some imagined successful future state);
- A modeling for others of what it means to deeply appreciate others in the family; and
- Extended patience, understanding and forgiveness for anything that might go awry (a spilled juice mess at the dinner table?) because of your appreciative thinking.
Though the clock always seems to be ticking with our children and teens, for me, having a teenager in the house has sensitized me to the fact that we have less of a time horizon with him around in our household. How can I make the most of it?
This holiday, I’m going to practice reflecting on gratitude for him, his friends, my niece, our neighbor’s kids and the many children and teens in our lives. Here are some fun ways you can do just that:
- The Best of Each Age
I began with going through each age and naming the top things I loved about that age. Spend time thinking this through while you are peeling potatoes, share in dialogue about it with your partners or other family members or even make a chart for all family members to fill in. Imagine what you might learn about the memories and appreciations of other family members’ experiences of your child at each age.
Age 1: He had such a determination to walk and such pride when he was able to. I remember him parading down the street with his go-cart looking up at the neighbors to ensure they were watching him take those strong steps forward on his own.
Age 2. etc.
2. Doing a present-day gratitude inventory.
Consider what it is you appreciate about your child’s physical abilities, social abilities, and emotional skills. You could use Howard Gardners’ full list of intelligences: 1. Spatial; 2. Interpersonal; 3. Intrapersonal; 4. Linguistic; 5. Musical; 6. Naturalist; 7. Logical-mathematical; and 8. Bodily.-kinesthetic.1 This could be your own journal reflection or post pictures of children with space to write what famiiy members see, value and appreciate.
3. Follow a passion.
In preschool research and practice, this is called “sharing the focus.”2 Yet focusing on someone’s passion at any age may offer one of the most significant demonstrations of love. Commit a full hour, half day or full day during the break to be mindfully present to learning about a passion of your child or teen. We’ll be spending a full day at the biggest model train show of the year, our son’s passion. What are your children passionate about? How can you offer the gift of your full attention to show that what’s important to them is important to you.
We are given the gift of a holiday this season that centers our focus on family and gratitude. This break from school and work can bring us social comfort as we deeply connect with those we love. It can offer emotional support as we focus our mind and energies on appreciating the abundance in our good lives, a feeling that fundamentally alters anxiety and brings us into a more peaceful state. I wish you all these benefits by being intentional about where you focus your mind and energies this Thanksgiving.
Here are some of my favorite books on gratitude!
“We are Grateful; Ostaliheliga” by Traci Sorrell
Adult Books Nonfiction:
“Making Grateful Kids; The Science of Building Character” by Jeffrey J. Froh and Giacomo Bono
“Gratitude Works; A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity” by Robert A. Emmons
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: the theory of multiple intelligences. New York, Basic Books.
Center on the Developing Child. Five Steps for Brain-Building Serve and Return. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.