As we enter the holiday season it can be easy to lose of track of our internal compass. We get busy getting ready: Ready to celebrate, to share, to give. In the busy-ness of getting ready, we sometimes forget to notice what we are grateful for and miss the opportunities to really connect and be present with the ones we love. Consider for a moment what you will want to remember being instead of what you want to remember doing. One thing that many traditions have in common (and you can start your own) is the sense of gratitude and generosity. Here are some ideas to play with at home to grow your family’s sense of these values.
Read together as a family
There are all sorts of books and stories with themes related to gratitude and kindness. Challenge your local librarian to direct you to some. The Fetzer Institute has a great resource list for books related to a spirit of giving (explore more terrific lists related to other character traits on the same website).
Create a family gratitude journal
Start a new journal or add some pages to your family meeting book. At dinner have everyone take turns being the scribe as each family member shares one thing that he or she is grateful for.
Start a tradition of giving
What can you do as a family to share? Families have many ways to be generous together, even families that do not have many resources. Consider collecting a basket for the food bank or tidying a neighbor’s front yard. Are your children old enough to research organizations that are helping the community (local, regional or international)? This can be a good time of year to empty their “charity” banks and pool resources to contribute to something they believe in.
Commit random acts of kindness
Talk with your family about how you might commit random acts of kindness. Do you want to practice on each other? Do you want to do stealth acts of kindness in your neighborhood? This kind of “mischief” can be great fun for kids. What kinds of ideas can you come up with?
Write thank-you notes
Schedule an evening dedicated to sharing appreciations — the lost art of thankfulness is easy to master. Get out some cardstock and brainstorm things that have happened that inspire family thankfulness. Draw or write thank-you notes to people who have enriched your life: Teachers, neighbors, doctors, family members, friends, the waitress at your favorite restaurant, clergy. Expressing gratitude in writing brings enjoyment to both sides of the sender-recipient equation.
Gratitude and generosity are an attitude and a practice. Your children learn from both and will feel more connected to you and others in the process. Happy Thanksgiving!
About the author
Jody McVittie, MD is the executive director and cofounder of Sound Discipline, a local nonprofit dedicated to teaching people to do the right thing, even when no one is looking. Sound Discipline works with schools and families in the Puget Sound Community.