November is the month for thanksgiving, a time we set aside each year for contemplating all of our many blessings, and for considering all those people and things in our lives for which we feel grateful. I've come to understand that being grateful is an attitude, a choice one makes, which has the power to alter the experience of any moment from one of resentment, deprivation and victimization, toward one of peace, abundance and serenity.
A grateful attitude seems to have no correlation with a person's actual circumstances but is clearly an active choice. I've known young people close to death who were experiencing devastating and unpredictable multiple losses on a daily basis, and yet were somehow able to manage the experience with gratitude. And in contrast, I've known entirely healthy folks with tremendous material wealth who chronically complain and bemoan their fate. So during this month it is especially timely to consider how one can instill in young children an awareness of the practice of gratitude, and an appreciation for the benefits of living a life based in thanksgiving.
With the seasonal holidays just around the corner, you might ask yourself: do your children really need endless gifts and lots more toys and objects? Is there a way to instill a consciousness for the many people, and especially children, who have so much less and frequently not even enough? Are there ways through meal time sharing or family discussions to encourage each member of your family to list one or two things or experiences from that day for which they are grateful?
One of the most powerful lessons for instilling in children a sense of gratitude is the attitudes we as adults model to them. Are we always looking to the next purchase or the next vacation, or do we take time to openly express our appreciation for the small and simple everyday things? Do we find ourselves in the unhappy position of being our child's event and entertainment planner, packing every free hour with activity? Or are we willing to have a day with no special plans, and instead just hang out together, free of our electronic distractions, simply enjoying each other's company?
Perhaps we could all give some thought to how thanks-giving can become more a way of life than just a special day set aside once a year. Not only will it be a gift to ourselves, but equally important we will be demonstrating to our children how to live lives rich with inner peace and abundance.
Originally published in November 2009.
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