We want our kids’ lives to be better than ours. It’s a natural instinct. Yet, it’s easy to lose sight of what really constitutes a “good life.” In a world where we’ve gotten used to having everything at our fingertips, and where people hashtag their expensive latte with #blessed on social media, teaching your kids about gratitude is an important, maybe even humbling, experience.
I’m not talking about donating toys, or using part of their allowance as a charitable donation, or even feeding the homeless for Christmas Day. Because while those are all good, noble and worthy ways of giving, giving away some of what we have isn’t always the path to gratitude, especially if you’re lucky enough to be in a position (financially) to replace it for yourself.
In our home, we’ve made it a practice to share our “favorite part of the day.” Sometimes the conversation is had over dinner out at a restaurant after two hours of karate. Sometimes there’s no dinner at all because our schedule is a little too packed these days, so we talk about it in between showers and brushing hair and tucking in.
But sometimes on a lucky occasion we’re all home and sitting at the dinner table and it’s a beautiful round table discussion. Discussing our favorite part of the day not only helps focus on the positive, but it forces you find something, anything, to be grateful for even in the midst of a what might have felt like a terrible day.
I’ve also learned not to shy away from the hard questions. What are refugees? Why is there a funeral for their baby? Why is she so sick? These are the types of questions that often get brusquely push away when kids ask them. I work to keep my kids abreast of current events as well as the realities of what is going on in the lives of our close family and friends.
These conversations are opportunities to have an open dialog about celebrations, loss, hardship and triumph in real world terms with which kids can grasp a connection. Kids don’t need to be sheltered, but they don’t need to be frightened either, so be mindful of what’s age appropriate and understandable.
Sure, it’s easier to buy them the coolest, newest, hottest toy/Xbox/jean what have you and pat yourself on the back for giving them a great life, and it’s true, that kind of material luxury is a nice life, and giving great toys to needy children is generous and thoughtful.
But teaching your kids what lies beyond those material things will equip them with a level of gratitude that will get them through the hardest and the best times of their lives. And yours.