Thanksgiving is a great time of year to reflect on gratitude and family. Amidst the hustle-bustle of meal prep and travel plans, most of us find at least a minute or two to think about all we have and all that we are thankful for. But focusing on gratitude is a great practice to continue even as the calendar flips and the seasons change. Here are some tips on how to incorporate giving thanks on a daily basis.
The first thing to consider is how much gratitude is expressed within your home. Some parents and children are super polite regardless of the setting and others generally forgo the pleasantries within the comfort of home-base. If you fall on either end of the extreme, shifting toward the middle may be a good practice. For example, if the words “thank you” pass your lips dozens of times an hour, it may help to pause and consider if all those statements are genuine or just a habit. If there are rarely words of thanks uttered, ramping up your efforts may help shift the tone. For one day (or even one hour) think about how you would speak to your family members if they were strangers. See if you are more apt to say thank you under those imagined conditions.
Another point to think about is the way you communicate things or actions you are thankful for. Saying, “I appreciate you picking up your shoes” or “Thanks for helping your brother with that” typically have a greater impact than a pat “Thank you.” Also, if you miss an opportunity to show gratitude to a family member in the moment, don’t hesitate to revisit the conversation at a later time. Some of the biggest, broadest smiles I have seen come from a child or spouse hearing about something they did that was much appreciated even after the fact. Making the effort and taking the time to bring the topic up again shows just how much of a positive impact was really made.
Finally, it’s important not to get too hung up on the details. Overthinking gratitude is not necessary, but as parents we are in the spotlight. So if you see patterns in your children or within your family that you are not necessarily pleased with, take the lead role and show your family what you want them to do. In less time than you think you will probably see others stepping up and copy-catting the very best you have shown them.
So, after the turkey is sliced, the pie is served and the kitchen is cleaned, make a point to bring thanksgiving with you. When all is said and done, being grateful can take practice, but expressing this sentiment will bring as much joy to those giving thanks as it does to those receiving it.
Stephanie O’Leary, Psy.D. Founder & Director of Westchester Psychological Services. Offering Evidence-Based Therapy, Neuropsychological Testing & Consultation Services. 91 Smith Ave, Mt. Kisco NY, 845-313-9049, www.WestchesterPsychologicalSvcs.com.