Thanksgiving is coming, and I can picture it now—the table is set, the candles are lit, and our favorite dishes filled with nostalgia are sitting on the table. I can already smell my Aunt Nancy’s sweet potato casserole baking with roasted marshmallows on top, and my mom’s cranberry sauce simmering on the stove with brown sugar and freshly squeezed lemon.
Just as that special meal is created with care and purpose, we as parents also have an opportunity to intentionally orient the heartbeat of our homes toward thankfulness. The muscles we strengthen as we curate a culture of gratitude in our families have the potential to inform the rhythms of our hearts all year long.
Jesus created us to be the parents entrusted to our particular children and the primary influence in their lives. Our children are watching us and absorbing family culture all the time. As we look at the ages, stages, and schedules of our families, we may wonder when we will have opportunities to be intentional influencers and how we can infuse a culture of thanksgiving amid our daily rhythms.
God’s Word elevates the importance and beauty of small everyday moments in Deuteronomy 6:7 when God, through Moses, says, “Impress [these commandments] on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” We, as parents, can take the everyday moments God gives us with our children, and be faithful where we’re at. Whether that takes place at the breakfast table, in the school carline, or while we’re pushing our child on the swing, there are pockets of opportunities to practice thankfulness.
Cultivating a culture of thankfulness in our homes begins with looking for the gifts of God all around us, then making connections from those gifts to who God is and who we are in Him.
“But be sure to fear the Lord and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you.” [emphasis added]
1 Samuel 14:24
When our girls were in elementary school, their Bible study had a tradition every November that postured their hearts towards thankfulness. We talked about always wanting to have eyes to see and savor the gifts of God in our lives, so the girls would pass around silly sunglasses we called “gratitude glasses” and take turns wearing them and saying something they were grateful for.
Whether your family passes around your own “gratitude glasses” or incorporates a different gratitude practice, here are a few practical suggestions to get you thinking about how you might cultivate thankfulness into your family rhythms:
- As you play outside, remind your children to thank God for the fall leaves and how they remind us that God loves us so much that He created this beautiful world.
- As you drive to school or baseball or ballet, you can encourage them to thank God for the opportunity to play and learn something new.
- On the way to the park, you can talk about thanking God for good friends and the kindness of Jesus in giving us buddies to play with.
- When you’re getting ready for the day, you can invite them to thank God for His faithfulness, that He would allow the sun to rise again.
- In the hard moments, you can teach them to thank God that He never leaves us and always takes care of us.
When our children (or us, as parents) begin to lean towards entitlement or discontent, we can take those teachable moments to re-root our children in the truth of Who God is and who we are in Him.
Studies show that the most joyful people are not those with a life devoid of trials or even those more naturally inclined to positivity. The people who experience the most joy in their lives are those who choose to look for opportunities for thankfulness. As parents of older children, we’ve seen that it’s not the big moments of life that cultivate the most joy, but often it’s the infusing of thankfulness and gratitude into the everyday moments of life through which God produces joyfulness in our daughters.
Ultimately, we as parents have the privilege of pointing our children’s hearts to Jesus over and over. When we have a glimpse of the abounding love and grace of Jesus, of who He is and who we are as His children, our response is worship and thanksgiving.
As we anticipate the coming holiday season, let’s create a culture of thankfulness and join with the psalmist as he says,
“The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.”