This holiday season is my favorite time of the year. When we were living abroad as expats with the United Nations, Thanksgiving was the holiday we celebrated with all our colleagues since it was inclusive of all the religions and cultures. Then we loved going around from family to family to celebrate their unique holidays during the month of December and January. We Latinos celebrate the Epiphany on January 6th. In many Latin American countries and Spain, that’s when the kids get their gifts. Regardless of the culture or religion, the common denominator during this period is “Gratefulness”
However, as much as I love the holiday season, I don’t think we need to wait for this period to teach our kids about being grateful. We all know that gratefulness is not a one time action. In order to add it to our DNA, we must build gratefulness into a habit. If you are looking for a meaningful resolution for 2013, add the grateful habit to your family. Here’s how we practice this habit on a regular basis throughout the year:
1) Morning Time: We thank the sun for a new day, we thank our nanny for a delicious breakfast and we thank each other for completing our chores on time. This is a great way to avoid taking things for granted. Also for keeping each child aware of the roles and responsibilities within the household.
2) School: We make it point to write a thank you note to the teacher who made each kid learn the most in the week. This is perfect to make the kids aware of what they’re learning and who is going the extra mile. It is also the best way to send positive reinforcement to the teachers (believe it or not, they need it too) on a regular day. It shows them that someone is watching and appreciating what they do for the kids.
3) Homework Time: The older kids help out the younger ones. In turn, the younger brothers help the older ones with memorization drills. Excellent practice for spelling quiz preparation and the times table. At the end of homework time, the helped sibling gives a “Thank You” sticker to the helper. 10 stickers mean a gift. So those stickers are worth gold!
4) Dinner Time: My favorite part of the day and I try to be there as much as I can. Every single day we set up a fancy table, say grace and eat together. Our meals are fun (this will be the topic of full post) and a great opportunity for the kids to listen to Mami and Papi talk about their day and what we are grateful for. At the beginning they tend to repeat the same things (grateful for food, toys, their brothers) but as they grow older, they also get into very laborious details and their own anecdotes of the day. We talk about random things and always at the end finish with a prayer of thanksgiving.
5) Bed Time: This is my other top favorite time of the day. All other moments of the day are pretty much spent as a family. Instead during bed time Gene and I get to give one-on-one attention to each child. That’s when we get to review the day on a deeper level. The little ones get a book read to them, but the older ones share the success, failures, struggles and joys of the day. No matter how big or small, they know that they finally have our undivided attention. We end the day thanking God for all the experiences of the day. Shared or not. This mami here is usually extremely tired by bed time so this is the moment of the day I’m most grateful for. It feels like “Misión Cumplida” (mission accomplished). Then I get to enjoy a little me-time with Gene and catch up with work while I watch a novelita.
Given my busy travel schedule, the biggest advantage about the grateful habit is that no matter where I am, I can always join the family with Skype or a quick phone call. So we can catch up as if I never left. The kids also develop the habits of reflection and appreciation. Both extremely important in the formative years.