Gratitude in Parenting: Being grateful and teaching our children gratitude.

I recently had a trip overseas to see my family in Denmark. While I was there, I was away from the busy-ness of my daily life and so had more time to relax and think.

Flying gives me great pleasure – I get excited just like a child – the thrill of taxiing down the runway, and the glee when the plane lifts and soars above the ground – I sit there, almost grinning like the Cheshire Cat in ‘Alice in Wonderful’.

The next day I’m lying on the grass in my sister, Anita’s backyard, in the sunshine with my niece, gazing through the dappled light of the giant tree at the moving clouds. I felt grateful and blessed to be there, for Cecilie’s company (I only see her every 4-5 years), for the sun when it was mid-winter back home in Tasmania, for being able to laze about instead of working, for the fact I had enough money to take such a trip, and for the joy of being with family again – so many things to be grateful for!

I believe that in every day there are things to be grateful for, and that it’s important to notice them.

What happens when we notice and appreciate these little things, is that we become better at noticing even more of them. Gratitude is a bit like a muscle – the more we use it (noticing and appreciating things) the stronger it gets, and our capacity to see more grows. The same happens when we focus on what’s wrong - we become better at finding more problems or issues – we’ve exercised our ‘problems’ muscle! I know which one I’d rather be stronger in!

Does this mean that we never experience problems – of course not! We will still have things like a child who has just spilt a litre of milk on the floor, or it starts raining when the washing is out, or that you get a big phone bill. These experiences are called ‘life’ and we all go through it, as your children will. When these things happen (the milk, the rain, the bill) we can either dwell on the problem by ranting or yelling or complaining, or we can choose to work on solving the problem instead, with an attitude of ‘what can I do to make this better’. It switches the whole focus from problem to solution! In the heat of the moment it may not feel like there’s anything to be grateful for, but on reflection… maybe you can see that the toddler is learning to pour better, and that the rain is helping the flowers to grow, and that the phone bill means you have lots of friends to talk with! How we choose to see our world is up to us!

Have you ever used a Gratitude Jar? Take a large glass jar and put a label “Gratitude Jar 2014” on it. Each night before bed on a small piece on paper, write down at least one thing you are grateful for, fold it up and place it in the jar. Do this every night. You’ll soon see that there are many things to be grateful for in your life. Yes, even when you are going through times. When I had breast cancer 5 years ago, it was a really had time, with surgery, chemotherapy, radiation etc. Yet, there were still so many things to be grateful for: the skill of the doctors, the caring nurses, the drugs available now, the family who supported me, the flowers I received, the sun shine, the food prepared, the wind in my hair - oh no, I didn’t have that! – so it was laughter instead – soooo much to be grateful for!

What would you put in your Gratitude Jar today? – thanks for the sunshine; my smiling children, my sleeping baby, the food I’m preparing for lunch, the fact I can pay my phone bill, I have warm clothes for my toddler, the feel of clean sheets or freshly brushed teeth, the taste of strawberries, the perfume my mother wears, the memory of my Grandpa etc etc

What an important gift to share with your children – to look at the world with thanks!

Happy (grateful) parenting!