Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love gathering with family and friends and giving thanks together over a delicious meal. I also don’t believe gratitude only belongs to one day. In my home, gratitude is a daily practice.
It’s very easy to get caught up in our own problems and lose sight of how fortunate or blessed we truly are. When I find myself grumbling underneath my breath about #firstworldproblems, I immediately stop complaining and instead focus my attention on gratitude. It’s amazing how that little switch can change your perspective. I also want my girls to adopt a gratitude mindset, rather than feel entitled to all the things they have. This is how I have helped them do so.
I always tell my girls we are “lucky duckies”. Granted, if your kids are older, you probably can’t use that phrase without them rolling their eyes at you, but the sentiment remains. We are lucky. We have a nice house, a warm bed to sleep in and plenty of food, which unfortunately not every child has. So I make a point to gently remind the girls of this. For example, after we put away groceries, I’ll look at our restocked fridge and say, “We are so fortunate to have such good food in our fridge.” Or when we dine out, I’ll say, “It’s so nice that we can enjoy a meal at our favorite restaurant together.”
I don’t roll out a red carpet and shout “Ta-da” and expect the girls to clap their hands at their good fortune but instead I model an abundant mindset every day. True gratitude doesn’t need applause but simple recognition for the ordinary things we may take for granted, such as a full fridge and a meal out. We are “lucky duckies” and I want my girls to know regardless of what else is going on in our lives, we have so much to be grateful for and we acknowledge our good fortune.
I firmly believe sharing enriches our lives. While the girls share their money through their annual share goals, they are now starting to volunteer as well. Additionally, we adopt a family every Christmas and I try to choose a family with girls close to same age as my own. Lauren and Taylor will pick out clothes and toys they want to share with the girls from their own closets and toys chests. They are old enough where I bring them along when we deliver the gifts. They love meeting the family and giving the gifts to them in person.
Sharing didn’t always come easy to them, but after they experienced firsthand how good it felt to share and saw how much joy they could bring into someone else’s lives, they were hooked. It feels great watching them give so willingly and generously. They love sharing now. It’s helped them appreciate how much they have and replace feelings of entitlement with gratitude.
Too often we compare our lives to others and find our lives lacking in comparison. This can fuel our need to keep up with the Joneses and start living beyond our means. I don’t want my kids to live this way.
I try to replace feelings of envy with appreciation because there will always be people who have more than we do. When we went on vacation this summer, the girls and I were invited to watch a movie at the cabin of one of their new friends. Their cabin was gorgeous, easily three times larger than our own with a beautiful wrap-around porch. My youngest wondered why our cabin wasn’t as luxurious. Before I could even answer, her big sister told her, “I am so happy that they have such a beautiful cabin and were willing to share it with us. We made a decision when we booked the cruise based on what we wanted to spend on this trip, and I love our cabin!”
I was so proud of Lauren’s response. She got it. Instead of being envious of her friend’s good fortune, she was happy for her and also happy for herself. She knew the trip represented the achievement of the largest family goal we had ever set together. We saved for two years for our Disney Cruise and chose to spend our money on private land excursions because exploring new places meant more to us than having a bigger cabin. We made sure the girls understood our the choices before we ever set sail, which helped Lauren appreciate her friend’s cabin while still feeling the satisfaction of honoring our family goal. She didn’t let her friend’s good fortune diminish her own good fortune, which so many of us do.
Creating a gratitude mindset in kids is very important. It can help prevent them from comparing their lives to others and feeling a need to keep up or exceed their friends’ lifestyles. My girls appreciate the gifts of our hard work and see us use our money on what matters most to us, which they are doing as well. And that is something I am thankful for this holiday season and every day.
Image courtesy of Shannon Kringen via Flickr.
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