Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Fostering an Attitude of Thankfulness in Our Children

As we embark upon another year of holiday celebrations and commence our new Liturgical year with the season of Advent, it is good to reflect upon the many blessings that fill our lives. While Thanksgiving is a secular holiday, it offers Catholic families the perfect opportunity to teach our children about the quality of thankfulness, both in prayer and in personal life.

I was blessed to grow up in a home filled with thankfulness. In turn, I'm trying to foster that same attitude of appreciation in my own sons. I've learned much from my own parents, who taught their five children to always be grateful for lives rich in blessings as opposed to looking at what we might not have. This "glass half full" outlook on life has served me well, enabling me to look at even life's most mundane gifts with a heart that perpetually gives thanks to God.

To help create a spirit of thankfulness within your family, make time to explore the following suggestions:

As a family, routinely pray together. Include prayers of praise and thanksgiving and invite your children's prayers as well. Some of my fondest family prayers include my boys precious "thanks" prayers prior to bed times when they were younger:

"Thanks God for the anthill I found at preschool today"
"Thanks for helping me find my missing lego monkey"
"Thanks for the soccer game, even though we lost"

Sure, some of these might have been thinly veiled attempts at stalling bedtime, but they always taught me to remember to say thanks for both the big and the little moments that made up each day.

Encourage the writing of "Thank You" notes. Little ones can be taught from an early age that every gift and kind gesture deserves a note of appreciation. Those too young to write can draw a picture or pose for a photograph of themselves and their gift to send to the giver. Older kids need to be taught that this social grace is also one that will be essential to them professionally and personally in the future.

Model everyday thankfulness for your children. Let your children see you take time to truly thank the clerk who helps you at the grocery store, the person who offers directions when you are lost, or the friend that helps drive the carpool. If everyone in the malls this holiday season took time to thank the employees who helped them, the world would be a nicer and friendlier place. Encourage your children to remember to say "thank you" in socially appropriate situations, such as when they are departing a friend's home or receiving a ride from another adult. If they forget to say thank you, politely prompt them frequently and eventually they will remember.

Remember to thank your children. Sadly, this is one area where families sometimes fall short - we forget or neglect to express appreciation to those we most love. We take small acts of kindness for granted or see only shortcomings. My father is an excellent "thanker" - his small notes of encouragement to me always raise my spirits. It's not unusual for me to receive an unsolicited email from my Daddy saying something akin to "Thank you for being such a wonderful person." Granted, he's my Daddy so he's a little biased, but the point is that when he takes time to thank me, it encourages me to do the very same for my own children. Next time your child brings home a test that falls short of your expectations, why not try genuinely thanking him for his efforts in school prior to launching into an interrogation? Thank the child who helps with chores, lovingly helps a sibling, or is kind to a friend. Take the time to say you appreciate the person they are becoming.

As we pause this week to count our blessings, I thought I would share with you the following prayer of gratitude. May God richly bless you and your family this holiday season, and may each of us make time each day to express our heartfelt gratitude for His eternal goodness in our lives.

Prayer on Thanksgiving Day

Heavenly Father,

This is the day set aside to give you thanks for your surpassing goodness to human beings. You have created us in your own image and set us over your wonderful creation. You chose us a people to be your won and to carry your message of salvation to all people. You carried out your redemption in Jesus, your Son, and his saving fruits are passed on to every generation to all who believer that by his death and resurrection Jesus has given them a new freedom in his Spirit. Let me give you proper thanks for your blessings - those I am aware of as well as those that I habitually take for granted. And let me learn to use them according to your will.


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