Try to cultivate gratitude as family
In honor of this time of year, when many of us gather as friends and loved ones to give thanks for the abundances of our lives, we must also remember that not everyone is blessed with the same level of bounty.
Bringing awareness to those around us during this time of year enriches our own level of gratitude and when we teach our families and our children about the experiences and needs of others, we set in motion a continuance of giving and selflessness all through the year.
1. Cultivate gratitude as a family.
It’s important to take time to count blessings on a regular basis and teach children to express their gratitude even about the little things. When I was younger, my mother used to tell me to use a notebook to write down every single thing I was thankful for when I would have bad days. This practice followed me throughout my life and still had the power to lift my spirits. It’s a great exercise to teach children that living in this era — in this country — affords them the opportunity to be extremely blessed and to teach them to always be vocal about their thankfulness.
2. Teach children about money.
It is never too early to start teaching children about the value of a dollar. Even an allowance of 30 cents a week can be an opportunity to teach about saving, giving and spending. Children can be taught to budget and save up for larger purchases, which helps begin to understand how to value and plan their resources. Children can be taught about ethical spending practices, debt, saying “no” and wise use of credit. It is equally important to teach generosity to children.
Teaching them that giving to those in need and to good causes helps the whole world feel more united and service centered.
3. Be a friend to the needy.
Kids are naturally compassionate and giving creatures. When they are small, it is important to cultivate their compassion and educate them on the struggles that others face. We don’t want to raise children in a bubble, we want them to understand that many suffer with loneliness, poverty and mental illness. If possible, find ways to volunteer to help others, be it through serving at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter, making or collecting items for those in need, or getting involved with community clean ups or walk-a-thons. When you do this, you can raise children who learn important lessons about treating all people with dignity and respect.
4. Choose a lifestyle that is more globally sustainable.
It’s been estimated that it would take 4-7 Earths to sustain us all if every human had the same ecological footprint as the average American; this is an eye-opening reality that teaches us that just because we can afford to consume more doesn’t mean that we should. For the sake of our global neighbors, the planet and future generations, we’ve simply got to find a less wasteful and consumptive lifestyles.
These are not concerns with easy solutions, but we can all do our parts to educate one another about the importance of caring for mother earth and all of its living inhabitants.
5. Value what everyone can enjoy.
When we expose our kids to poverty and struggle it’s easy to focus on the differences between what we have and what others lack. However, even with the absence of the luxuries and conveniences we are familiar with, many people are still filled with happiness and love. Every human can smile, laugh, sing, dance and share what little they have with one another. While being careful not to romanticize or trivialize the challenges of those living in harsher conditions, it seems clear that human happiness is not wholly dependent on what we own or consume. Teach children, and families about the value of true joy.
Gratitude is a universal emotion, therefore teaching of the importance of service and giving is a lifelong reward for everyone.
(Editor’s note: Guest columns and letters are published as submitted, without fact-checking or corrections. They represent the belief/opinion of the author. Publishing these viewpoints does not represent an endorsement by the Observer or any member of our staff. Our prevailing aim is to facilitate a spirited but rational and respectful community dialogue on the array of issues and challenges we face collectively. Toward that end, we welcome submissions from all perspectives.)