Last school holidays were like none other for many parents around the world. Camping trips and day trips were cancelled, playdates were off, and there wasn’t even sport on TV!
If your kids were a little disappointed, and still feeling anxious, you’re not alone. It’s easy to focus on the negatives right now; we’re being constantly reminded of them every time we check in on social media, or the evening news.
Add to that the fact that tensions are running high and tempers are fraying as we’re all cooped up in our homes together.
It’s up to us as parents to create a different narrative for our kids and to shift their focus, taking advantage of this time to strengthen relationships and teach them resilience.
Here are five ways to build their character through gratitude over the coming weeks…
Start a Thankful journal
Get your kids to write down five things they’re thankful for each day. This may take some practice and a little guidance to help them get started. Ask them “If you woke up tomorrow and you only had the things you felt thankful for today, what would you have?” Suddenly, they become aware that they woke up in a comfortable bed this morning, they had a hot shower, they had food to eat and family who loves them. With practice, they’ll find new things to be thankful for every day.
Put a jar or a box on the table for each family member, along with some scrap paper and pencils. Each day, ask everyone to write little ‘gratitude notes’ to each other. ‘Thanks for taking the bins out.’ ‘Thanks for helping me build an epic fortress in Minecraft.’ ‘Thanks for shooting hoops with me.’ When we feel ‘seen,’ our sense of wellbeing increases. It also builds harmony in the home, when everyone’s deliberately looking for the good in each other.
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As a family, write out a list of all the things you were grateful for before the restrictions. They might even be things you weren’t grateful for, but rather took for granted, until they weren’t there any more — going to the movies, visiting grandparents, playdates, going to the footy. Make a thorough checklist and then make a commitment to do all these things once they’re available again, ticking them off one by one. It will give your kids something to look forward to, and try not to take them for granted any more as you tick them off, remembering what life was like without them.
Thank the helpers
NBC’s Fred Rogers famously said: ‘When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”’
Right now, there’s plenty of distressing content on the news surrounding a certain pandemic, and it’s normal for kids to feel a bit anxious at times like this. Giving them a ‘heart’ project can help them feel like they’re helping and it reminds them that there are ‘helpers’ who are there to look after them and keep them safe. Perhaps they could write a thank you letter to the staff at a nearby hospital, or pool their pocket money to buy coffees for your local GPs. Drop off some baked goods at the police station, or draw a picture for a fire fighter.
There’s always something to be thankful for
1 Thessalonians 8:13 reminds us to ‘give thanks in everything.’ Everything? Yes, everything. Even the hard things. We’re not asked to give thanks for everything. That would be mean. But it’s a promise that no matter what happens, there’s always something to be thankful for.
It means that as parents, we need to watch how we’re talking. Are we constantly complaining about the restrictions in front of our kids? Or expressing our own fears and concerns in their ear shot? This is an opportunity to change our own mindsets, too. We need to remind ourselves and our kids of all the things we have to be thankful for, especially at times like this.