Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mindful Parenting: Fostering Thankfulness

Every Thanksgiving Day, parents encourage their children to say what they are thankful for. However, award winning parenting author Mary O’Donohue believes that if parents focus too much on the words, and not enough on the true feeling of gratitude, the real meaning of the holiday might get lost. So, this Thanksgiving, Mary provides us with some fun and interesting "Do's and Don'ts" for making the most out of Thanksgiving for you, your family, and your holiday guests.

Don’t: Have each guest at the table say what they’re thankful for while the food sits in front of them getting cold! Take a moment to pray together as a family, or have one person say a few words of gratitude, and then invite everyone to start enjoying the delicious feast while it’s still hot.
Do: Purchase a small poster board (14”x22”) so your kids can create a “Thanksgiving Gratitude Board” and display it where everyone can see. Put out colorful markers and ask each guest to write down what they’re grateful for. (Make sure they sign and date their comments.) Bring it out every year. Or buy an inexpensive journal and make it your family’s Gratitude Book. Have guests add to it every Thanksgiving for a beautiful record of your family’s gratitude.
Don’t: Prompt your children to say thank you whether they mean it or not - even at Thanksgiving. Especially at Thanksgiving!
Do: Help your kids make the connection between being grateful and saying thank you by focusing on the importance of making a “match” between what they’re feeling and how to express it. Let them know that each part is important – both the feeling and the words, and one without the other simply isn’t as powerful.
Don’t:  Talk about politics, religion, or Aunt Bertha’s gallbladder surgery at the dinner table this year.
Do: Start a new tradition! Create a “Gratitude Circle” where everyone at the table says something positive about the person sitting to their left. For example, “I’m thankful for Cousin Katie because of her cheerful personality. She always has a way of lifting me up when I’m down.” This way of expressing gratitude can be especially powerful for children, who might not always notice the intangible gifts they receive from their family – gifts like compassion, humor, friendship, and love.
Don’t: Let Thanksgiving be the only day of the year your family focuses on gratitude.
Do: Practice gratitude every day with your family. Put up a dry erase board in a hallway in your home and encourage everyone to write down what they’re grateful for every night before bed. Or display a decorative box in your kitchen and label it a “Thanks for No-thing Box.” Fill it with small pieces of paper and a few pens, so everyone in the family can write mini thank you notes - not for "things," but for those intangible gifts you give each other on a daily basis. Once a week at dinner open the box and read the notes out loud. This will help ensure that the blessings of Thanksgiving will stay with your family throughout the year

For more information and tips on expressing gratitude, please visit http://www.maryodonohue.com and read Mary's book When You Say Thank You, Mean It.

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