By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
The fall is beautiful, but boy, is it busy! School is in full swing, sports are happening, things are due, and life is busy. Right after October comes Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is an invitation to pause, to lean into family, and to give thanks for this life we have been given. It can be tough to change gears so fast from busy to grateful. We have to create a routine that helps us all express gratitude over this special season.
Gratitude is a holy practice. Psalm 107:8-9 declares, "Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things." God is our provider, and he encourages us to meditate on this life-giving truth!
Neither we nor our kids are naturally grateful. I'm convinced my kids' top gift and calling is to point out what they find unsatisfactory about any given situation. I have to remind them daily that an attitude of gratitude makes anything we do in life better. Thanksgiving is a great time to go out of the way to model and make a big deal about choosing to cultivate a grateful heart.
Here are some ideas on how to help your kids express gratitude this Thanksgiving:
1. Use Art to Express Your Gratitude
Art is something that everyone in the family can participate in, no matter what your age. Choose a project for everyone to participate in that focuses on gratitude. This could be a gratitude tree. For younger kids, creating a big tree with leaves that all represent something you are grateful for is an easy way to create together.
If you have some nature-loving kiddos, take a hike and have them each choose something that stands out to them in creation. Then, take time to create art inspired by God's beauty. There is something so grounding about the outdoors for our souls.
If a digital project is more up your alley, why not create a gratitude photobook for the season? Everyone can choose photos and memories to highlight from the past year or month to arrange in a book you guys can enjoy as a family. You could even print the photos and make your own collage or scrapbook, too.
2. Daily Share Things You Are Grateful for at Mealtime in November
Practice makes perfect! Over the month of November, share things you are each grateful for over mealtime. It could be something you love about the other people in your family, your home, the meal, your day, and more! This routine will keep gratitude at the forefront of your family's thoughts and make sharing at the Thanksgiving table what you are grateful for a little easier if you've practiced before sitting down with all the relatives.
3. Practice Cheerful Giving
We can get inundated with so much new stuff over the holidays. The kids can become so overwhelmed with excitement that they fail to have space to practice gratitude and also see for themselves that it is better to give than to receive. Create meaningful opportunities for your kids to practice cheerful giving this Thanksgiving. There is something about giving that reminds us of the ways we've been blessed. As we meet a need of someone else, we are reminded of how graciously our own needs have already been met!
There are so many fun ways to practice giving generously as a family! A few examples include packing boxes for Operation Christmas Child, sponsoring a local family and providing a holiday meal for them, restocking food bank items, or writing notes of encouragement to the elderly or ill.
Photo credit: ©Operation Christmas Child Facebook
4. Serve Others with Love
Changing your perspective and putting yourself in someone else's shoes is a great way to grow your home in gratitude. It can be hard to always see how blessed we are when we have nothing to compare our circumstances to. It's human nature to get so focused on our own big and small stresses that we stop having eyes to see the reasons we have to celebrate!
Thanksgiving is a great time to show love as a family by diving into a service project in your community. There are many chances to get out and love your community this time of year. You guys can serve holiday meals, visit the elderly, rake a neighbor's leaves, and so much more. Service opens our hearts to loving others better and shows us that we are so blessed to have the skills and resources to walk alongside another person who may have a need.
5. Create a Family Book of Gratitude
A gratitude book or journal is a sweet place to record what you are most thankful for as a family and add to the list each year. Take time together to record the ways God has provided for your family and recount all the amazing ways God has answered your family's prayers. Adding more to the story every year is a beautiful way to record God's goodness and faithfulness over the years.
Our kids need examples to point to how God is real, active, and alive in their lives. Writing and recalling what he has done for us is powerful. We can talk about how God gave us the simple things like the food we wanted for our birthday meal and how he provided for the big things like our health.
Psalm 77:11 says, "I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your wonders of old." God invites us to remember what he has done for us, but we are quick to forget. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to let this holiday be a chance to memorialize the ways God has provided this past year. Let's remember with our children his goodness and grace together. This is one of the greatest tools we have as parents to pass along our faith by remembering with gratitude God's faithfulness together.