By Guest Blogger Kelly Sipe

This week in my kindergarten class, we have been studying the Pilgrims and learning of their voyage from England.  We’ve talked about the reasons why they left England.  We have also spent some time comparing our lives to those of the Pilgrims.  This comparison lends itself to a discussion on being grateful for all the things that we have in our lives.

The children of today have so much more than we had growing up.   I can remember as a child… I only received gifts on my birthday and Christmas (not here and there throughout the year as we shopped through Target!).  We didn’t have all the electronic devices that the children.  We never took multiple vacations or trips throughout the year, as my daughter now gets to take.  Yet, for the little I had in comparison, I never felt that I was lacking.

“We live in a glorious universe, surrounded by miracles of nature, but in our fast-paced, super sophisticated world, we too often take the beauty of our world and those people on it for granted.  The colors and textures of our lives blur before us like a movie run in fast motion as we dash from one scene to the next.  Unless we take time to help our children embrace the world in which they live, they’ll grow up beingmore preoccupied with wanting what they don’t have than appreciating what they have.” ~ Excerpt from 10 Minute Life Lessons For Kids

I think one of the most important things that we can pass on to our children is a grateful heart.  The best way that children learn gratitude and adopt a grateful heart is by watching us model it.  Notice the little things that others do that you appreciate.  If you drop something in the grocery store and someone picks it up for you, thank the stranger and then ask your child: “Wasn’t that nice of that person to stop and pick that up for me?”  Saying thank you has become rote for many children.  It often is viewed as what you need to say; however, what we forget to do is to label the behavior or action that we appreciate.  It’s the definition, the meaning, behind the thank you.

And, don’t forget to recognize the things that the members of your family do that you appreciate.  Sometimes, we save our best manners for others and don’t use them as readily or as often on members of our own family.  With your children, compliment them, thank them and appreciate them.  If we, as adults, get into the habit of expressing gratitude and appreciation for others, our children will be more inclined to express these feelings to others.

After a very generous Christmas holiday at our house I felt as if my daughter had lost sight of the non-material things in her life that she should be grateful for.  We began a gratitude journal that we wrote in together at night.   Each night we reflected on our day and had to write down something that we were grateful for.  No material items could be included in the list.  It had to be something that someone said or did for us that made us feel good or helped us in some way.  It could be thanking God for the beautiful sunset we noticed while driving home or that a friend helped my daughter figure out a math problem without her having asked for help, etc.  What started out as one item per person, per night quickly became a list!  Once we started noticing life and the people around us we were overwhelmed with just how much we have to be grateful for every day.   It was a great reminder to be mindful and to take notice of those items and/or people that are regular, almost expected pieces of our lives.

As we look towards the season of giving, I am challenging myself and my family to walk through the season with a grateful heart.  In lieu of opening an advent calendar filled with candies and entertaining an elf that creates mischief or reports discretions to Santa, we will do four weeks of daily acts of kindness. In filling the hearts of others, our own hearts will be open to receive the abundance and blessings of the upcoming season.

Some ideas to try at home:
*Surprise someone who has inspired you with a handwritten note. This could be a mentor, teacher, author, pastor, friend, a child, etc.

*Try this new spin on your current family elves: Kindness Elves that teach gratitude and positive character traits by leaving imaginative ideas each morning for your children.

*Choose one thing that you can do to make a family member’s day easier/happier.

*As a family, choose a community outreach project and devote time this month to giving of yourselves and your time.

*As your child creates their holiday wish list of toys, challenge them to make a Joy List. What brings them joy? Identifying where we find joy is incredibly grounding and centering. Your child can include in their Joy List experiences that others can provide for them or do with them that make their hearts happy.

*Make an acronym poem for someone special (or for each person that will come for Thanksgiving dinner) that describes the characteristics that you appreciate about them. (Sarah: S is for Sensitive, A is for Artistic, R is for Reliable, A is for Awesome, H is for Honest). Also, have the older kids click HERE to create fun word clouds as name place cards that you fill with amazing attributes of that special someone.

Wishing you and yours a very a happy holiday season, full of blessings!

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