Encouraging Thankfulness in Your Family

As our lives continue to be harried and hurried, it seems thankfulness has become less important in our society today. Although one might shrug off the importance of teaching thankfulness to the next generation, for many reasons, encouraging thankfulness should be a part of life. 

April Masini, nicknamed the new millennium’s Dear Abby and founder of AskApril.com, says thankfulness is the ability to take yourself out of your own head and your own life and find the perspective you need to realize what you have is not a right—-it’s a privilege.

“Kids who are thankful have better tools to succeed and help others as a result of their success,” says April. “Success, however, isn’t measured only by a bank account or a big house—it’s measured by the ability to connect and communicate and have relationships of all kinds.”

Nurturing thankfulness begins with us. To get started, here are nine true and tried suggestions to encourage thankfulness in your family.

  1. Convert negatives into positives. Stuck in traffic? Author Jamie Glowacki believes it’s probably for a good reason. “Who knows what was waiting for us if we had been cruising down the highway,” says Glowacki.  “I believe everything happens for a reason so everything is good.” She feels parents think of thankfulness in ‘cash register’ terms. To be thankful means you just received a material thing. Then, children mimic adults and follow the same “cash register” process. “I tend to encourage a deep thankfulness for life,” says Glowacki, “and all the good and all the bad and all that we have.” 
  2. Focus on the little things. By learning to be thankful for the things we take for granted, we can encourage thankfulness within our family. Nina Amir, Inspiration-to-Creation coach, feels we should be thankful for the glass of water when we are thirsty.  The smile someone offers as we walk by. Or the penny we find on the street.  When we learn to be thankful for the little things, we learn to be grateful for the larger things.  Amir believes thankfulness changes our energy to allow those things into our life when we need them.
  3. Say it out loud. Nina Amir made it a habit in thanking God in a traditional way for everything around us.  “I had my children say small blessings in the Jewish format when they would see a rainbow,” says Nina Amir. “Thank you, God, for the rainbow.” The next time you’re with your children and you see a rainbow, beautiful sky or a tree with a burst of autumn leaves, follow Amir’s example and thank God for the blessings around you. 
  4. Take a grateful turn. At the dinner table, each family member takes a turn listing one thing for which he or she is thankful, suggests family counselor Edie Raether and author of Stop Bullying Now. If the dinner hour isn’t feasible for your family, try it at breakfast or another time when the family is together. “It should be a daily ritual. It could be done with an already established ritual, such as brushing teeth.”
  5. Start an entry journal.  Keep a gratitude journal in the entryway of your home. As family members walk by the journal, they can stop and jot down a reason to be thankful, suggests Christy Lambert, founder of Inspired Running. The journal is always there in the same place as a reminder. “You can add your item to the gratitude list.  It’s a fun way to let people do it on their own time,” emphasizes Lambert.
  6. Adopt a grandparent. When former Pittsburgher Dr. Julie Gurner was a child, her family would prepare special treats and sandwiches for a meal with two elderly women at a local senior care facility.  Without family of their own, the elderly women became Gurner’s adopted grandparents and they shared weekly picnic lunches. “My mother always talked about the importance of family on the way home and how fortunate we were to have each other.” At the time, Gurner didn’t realize her mother was teaching a life lesson.
  7. Count three blessings.  Before your children go to bed, have them count three blessings and why those blessings happened to them, recommends Caroline Adams Miller, best-selling author of Creating Your Best Life. She believes children learn this is how to foster well-being and to see that it can bring good things into their lives through deliberate actions and behaviors.
  8. Reverse the birthday thanks. Another way to nurture thankfulness in older children, and adults too, is to write notes of gratitude as a birthday celebration.  In the weeks leading up to your child’s birthday or your birthday, write a note to all those people who have been meaningful in your life during the past year, suggests Caroline Adams Miller. “Instead of receiving,” Miller continues, “you give thanks. This not only creates well-being, it’s a contagious emotion.”
  9. Be the change. Being thankful is an attitude of gratitude. Take these suggestions and incorporate them into your day and watch the positive changes that will occur from these simple steps. Your family will thank you.    

Author M.J. Rulnick specializes in home, family and travel.