Updated: Nov 25, 2020
Glennon Doyle has a wonderful quote in her book Untamed: “If you are uncomfortable – in deep pain, angry, yearning, confused – you don’t have a problem, you have a life. Being human is not hard because you are doing it wrong, it is hard because you are doing it right.”
Life is throwing many challenges our way as we adapt to COVID-19 restrictions. Amidst the difficulty that is COVID-19 on top of regular life challenges, there are positive things to be grateful for.
We are adults with fully (mostly) formed brains and years of experience behind us and thankfulness is challenging for US, now imagine being three years old with a brain that is still developing, and it really isn’t a mystery why it is difficult for these tiny humans to appreciate and be thankful for what they have. They often don’t even have the words to verbalize their thankfulness. But a mind towards gratitude and thankfulness are some of the building blocks of healthy social emotional development.
Here is how you can encourage a bit more gratitude in your children during this difficult season:
1. Lay the foundation.
Talk to your kids about how they are feeling. Help them name their emotions both in turbulence and in calm and encourage them to see the emotions in others. Books are a great way for kids to identify emotions. As you are reading, ask your child “How do you think they feel? How do you know they feel that way?”
2. Ask the right questions.
Start the conversation in a way that fits your kiddo. Coming at it from a different angle could help elicit the responses you are looking for: What makes you laugh? What does your mom do that makes you feel loved? What is your favorite thing?
3. Model gratitude and words of thankfulness.
If you see your child laughing or enjoying something – point it out and model using words of thankfulness. “I saw you playing with Sam on the playground today. I am so thankful that you have a nice friend to play with.” A good friend of mine would mention to her sweet grandma someone that she admired, and her grandma would say, “Did you tell them? You gotta tell them!” If you are thankful for someone or admire their work, their tenacity, their kindness – tell them. It isn’t just beneficial to express gratitude, but it is a lovely thing to receive gratitude. Be specific! In other words, don’t just say thanks, but say thanks while reinforcing the behavior that inspired the gratitude: “Thank you for cleaning your room. I like the way you arranged your stuffed animals in the basket.” Or “I am so grateful for how you show kindness to your brother, when you read with him it makes him so happy – his smile is huge.”
4. Write it down.
If on any given day the only thing you and your kiddos can be thankful for is that zombies don’t exist, write it down. Pinterest has 14 million different adorable ways you can document thankfulness. If Pinterest feels like a confusing and complicated black hole, a simple way to record thankfulness is a “thankfulness box”. It can also be a mason jar (see image). When you think of something you are thankful for, write it on a piece of paper and put it in the box. Pull the papers out every so often and read them – it is a great reminder that even when life is difficult there are things to be thankful for.
Here are some other ideas for how YOU can practice gratitude:
Check out the Thank You, Anacortes Facebook Group and thank your first responders, frontline workers, and teachers. If there isn't a similar group for your town - start one!
Buy coffee for the person behind you in the drive thru at your favorite coffee stand and extend your thankfulness and generosity out in to the world.
Have you seen the TouchNote app? This is a great way to nurture your most important relationships with meaningful, real communication – in just a few taps. Send a note of thanks to a friend, co-worker, or family member.
Being human is hard. Being a human during a pandemic is harder. Practicing gratitude is a wonderful way to shift your thinking from the difficulties of life to the small everyday joys.