There is an irony that exists when living in one of the most abundant societies in the world; the more we have, the more we want. As a counterbalance, try this easy activity to nuture a spirit of gratitude.
Have your child find a small, flat stone that can stay in the car. Adopt the weekly ritual of passing the stone around on the way to school.
Have each family member reflect on something they are grateful for in their lives. Up the challenge and reflect on those gifts in our lives that can’t be purchased with money.
A Hoberman Sphere is a handy dandy toy for helping children develop self-regulation skills.
One way to use the sphere is to help children externalize overwhelming emotions. Externalizing tough emotions often will make those upsetting feelings more manageable. Instead of saying, “Wow, you are really angry” consider this small change; ” Wow, the angry is really big right now.”
Use the sphere to let the child show you how big the feeling is right now.
Is it this big?
Or is the anger/sadness/disappointment even this big?
Once you and the child have a handle on just how big the emotion feels at that moment, you can then move on to think of ways to begin to shrink that distressing emotion. See if the student has any ideas about how to make the sphere, aka the feeling, begin to get just a little smaller.
You might be surprised that children often know what they need to feel better. By asking the child to come up with some ideas, you are putting the SELF in self-regulation! Check in with the child in a few minutes and have the child show you what size the feeling is now. Is it getting any smaller?
How can we get the feeling to this size?
Once the feeling is down to a manageable size, be sure to congratulate the child for being resourceful in knowing how to manage hard feelings. This is a skill that will serve children well throughout their lives.
Think about who is a successful employee – someone who can effectively manage the inevitable conflicts that arise at work, or someone who flies off the handle the moment something doesn’t go their way?
Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
~Marcus Tullius Cicero
What gets in the way of gratitude?
Western culture has long been defined by the “having what you want” attitude vs. the “wanting want you have” mentality. We are all constantly bombarded with messages that are not gratitude focused.
In order to reap the benefits of living with a focus on being grateful, we have to be mindful and intentional about keeping gratitude at the forefront until it becomes habit.
Here is an easy idea for bringing gratitude into your family’s daily routine.
Cut strips of colorful paper and place them in a basket or baggie. Start a gratitude chain where each night at dinner or before bed, every person in the family writes down something they are grateful for. Loop the strips together and watch your gratitude chain grow over the following days.
Increase the challenge, and thus the benefits , by not repeating the same ideas represented on earlier chain links. Embrace the good feelings of being thankful for all that we already have.