The jokes and memes about Thanksgiving being overlooked circulate relentlessly this time of year and even though they are hilarious, do you know why they are everywhere? Because it is the absolute truth – Thanksgiving does get overlooked. How do we prevent this day from being overlooked? Start and continue conversations especially with the upcoming generations about this day of Thanksgiving and the vast importance of gratitude. Now is a better time than ever to sit children down and explain the extreme importance of honoring Thanksgiving and not just this day of thanks, but also an ongoing mindset of gratitude.
Whether you are a foster parent, an adoptive or biological parent, or a mentor of any capacity it is your obligation to help contribute knowledge and wisdom to the next generations. One imperative piece of wisdom that must be passed down from generation to generation is the value in developing and maintaining a mindset of gratitude. It seems simple enough to teach one to be grateful, but it goes deeper than saying “thank you.” As adults we must make a conscious effort to teach and model to children that gratitude in itself is a conscious practice.
Due to the extremely fast-pace of modern society it can be a daunting task to stay in the moment and focus directly on who and what we should be grateful for. We must intentionally stay focused on the present to not lose sight of each moment we should be thankful for whether it is a seemingly meaningless moment or a monumental moment. Children look to us to guide them in the moments that adulthood can cause us to take for granted. If we are intentional about each moment and constantly practicing gratitude it will be evident in our words, our actions, and our relationships and the young people who look to us for guidance will follow that example.
While parents and mentors must set the example of practicing gratitude for upcoming generations, there are also questions that can be asked to kick start a young person’s mindset of gratitude. Research indicates there are four essential components that help to create an experience of gratitude: notice-think-feel-do. To help children understand these four components and generate conversations about gratitude parents and mentors can ask questions like the ones from greatergood.berkeley.edu below:
NOTICE: What have you been given or what do you already have in your life for which you are grateful? Are there gifts behind the material gifts for which you are grateful, like someone thinking about you or caring about you enough to give you the gift?
THINK: Why do you think you received this gift? Do you think you owe the giver something in return? Do you think you earned the gift because of something you did yourself? Do you think the gift was something the giver had to give you? If you answered no to these questions, then you may be more likely to be grateful.
FEEL: Does it make you feel happy to get this gift? What does that feel like inside? What about the gift makes you feel happy? These questions help the child connect their positive feeling to the gifts that they receive in their lives.
DO: Is there a way you want to show how you feel about this gift? Does the feeling you have about this gift make you want to share that feeling by giving something to someone else? Prompting children after experiences of gratitude in order to motivate acts of gratitude, whether they be acts of appreciation or paying it forward, may help children connect their experiences and actions in the world.