blessings jar in our kitchen and we add small strips of paper to it regularly to remember that for which we are thankful. I made the jar years ago in my MOPS group so it’s been around for a while. If you take a peek inside, you’ll discover little notes handwritten by little people to express the big gratitude in their little hearts. I am thankful for: Mom, Dad, My Bed, My Toys, My Friends, My Family, Cake. I never pushed them to think outside the box when they were young. Simply practicing the habit of expressing thanksgiving was enough to seed and grow a garden of gratitude in their hearts. Now that they are older, though, I’m challenging my kids (age 9 and 6) to go deeper and think more broadly about all they have to be thankful for. Because it’s easy to express the obvious when trained to do so but to truly cultivate an attitude of gratitude in our kids that will follow them through life takes consistent training and a whole lot of prayer. I want my children to truly understand their blessings, not just name them. I want deep gratitude to rise up in their hearts on good days and peace-filled contentment to carry them through bad ones. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, we’re focusing more and more on how to connect our kids’ hearts with their blessings.
5 Ways to Help Kids Understand their Blessings
- Counting Practice. Establish a family habit of counting your blessings in a jar or a journal or simply by sharing 3 things you are thankful for at the end of every day.
- Finding the Bright Side. This one has become a personal challenge for me. I’m a complainer by nature because I like to verbally process things and work out all of the disappointment and struggle before I find a solution. But I want to shake this bad habit—for myself and so my kids don’t grow up to be complainers, too. Even if it isn’t in our nature, we can learn to confess the bright side, first, when things get tough and invite our kids to do the same.
- Expanding your Family Worldview. One of the most effective ways to cultivate gratitude in our kids is to open their eyes to see how blessed they are. The heart behind this should not be a comparison, but rather an awareness that we have so much to be thankful for. Read books that open your kids’ eyes to the needs of others. Partner with a missions organization to sponsor a child or volunteer your time as a family. Choose a country and research its culture, its people and their needs.
- Prayer and Bible Reading. Expressing our thanksgiving in prayer is an important habit to develop as a family. But it’s also important to share our own requests in prayer so our kids understand that even though we are blessed, we can still go to God with our needs. The Bible is full of examples of answered prayer and blessings. One of my favorite examples is in the Old Testament – The Widow’s Oil. In 2 Kings 4:1-7 we learn of the widow who was left with a lot of debt. She asked the prophet Elisha for help. Elisha told her to gather as many jars as she could from her neighbors (I love that this story includes jars – just like our blessings jar). He instructed her to pour the little bit of oil that she had into the jars. She poured and poured and the oil kept coming. She was able to fill many jars, sell the oil and gain enough money to pay her debts. This is a powerful story of taking what we have (however big or small) and being thankful and trusting God to do more with it than we could ever imagine.
- Digging Deeper. Continue to count your blessings as a family on a regular basis but challenge each other to go beyond the obvious. Train them to be specific. Try these prompts to go deeper:
- What healthy food are you thankful for because it nourishes your body?
- What leader in your life you are thankful for?
- What subject in school are you thankful to be learning?
- What difficulty can you be thankful for because it’s teaching you something good?
- What trait do you admire in a friend that you can be thankful to have an example of in your life?
- What luxury or comfort at home are you thankful for?
- What special part of this season are you most thankful for?
Give thanks for the many pleasures of Fall with A Pumpkin Prayer. This adorable board book will start many blessings-based conversations about crunchy fall leaves, crisp weather, pumpkin pie and more! Let’s face it, in today’s culture of “me, me, me!” we’re fighting an uphill battle to teach our kids to realize all they have to be thankful for. But if we consistently develop an understanding of our big, big blessings together as a family, we’ll grow in gratitude and maybe the world around us will catch on!
How are you helping your kids understand their blessings?