One of our favorite Thanksgiving memories is gathering around the table as a family and giving true thanks for all the great things that have occurred over the last year that only God could have done. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we cry, but we always celebrate the blessings! There's a lot of things our children need to learn but one of the greatest things we can give them is gratitude. It is a character trait that will guide them trough both good and bad seasons in their future making the good times great and the difficult times durable.
Recently I read an article by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude. He states, "A decade’s worth of research on gratitude has shown me when life is going well, gratitude allows us to celebrate and magnify the goodness. But I have often been asked if people can—or even should—feel grateful under dire circumstances. My response is not only will a grateful attitude help—it is essential. In fact, it is precisely under crisis conditions when we have the most to gain by a grateful perspective on life. In the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope. In other words, gratitude can help us cope with hard times."
Hebrews 12:28 reminds us that God's kingdom cannot be shaken and for that we should be grateful.
"Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;"
If teaching your children to give thanks is a concept you want to explore, here's an idea you can try. Since Thanksgiving is already here, you can lay the groundwork for next year's celebration by beginning this year with this activity.
Sometime over the holiday, turn on soft worship music, light some candles, and gather your family together. Have everyone share three things that happened to them over the last year they are thankful for. Then have someone in your family lead a prayer of Thanksgiving for the blessings shared or you could have everyone read the following prayer together out loud.
Dear God, today we give thanks for our family and friends as we pray for those who are all alone. We give thanks for our blessings as we pray for those who have need. We also give thanks for our freedoms as we pray for those who are not free and living in bondage. We give thanks for our health as we remember those who are ill and need to be healed. We give thanks for our success and comfort, help us to share our blessings with those who are less fortunate than us. On this day of giving thanks we pray for your love to surround us, your mercy to cover us and your grace to pardon us and your peace to full us with your presence and joy.
After this activity, explain the plan for next year's Thanksgiving. You will either need to work together and make a "Thankful box" out of a shoe box or you can purchase a small special box at your local gift show or Home-goods department store. Our box is a box someone gifted us, with the words "Faith" engraved on the outside. If you make your box, you will need Thanksgiving themed wrapping paper and ribbons or you can use a large paper bag cut to wrap the shoe box and lid and then use Thanksgiving stickers to decorate the paper. Either way, it's a great family project. Make sure an adult cuts a slot in the top of the shoe box for dropping in the future blessings.
Decide together where the box should remain in your home for the next year and gather a notepad and pen to keep beside the box. The rule is, every time something good happens, a blessing occurs, or a prayer is answered the family member should go write it down and place it in the box for the next year. If you have younger children, they can get a parent to help them write down the blessing and place it in the box. Then next Thanksgiving you simply divide out the blessings that have been written down and placed in the box and then go around the table having each person read one blessing at a time until they are all read. In the end you've created a family tradition that can be continued for generations and memories that will last a lifetime. You've developed an attitude of gratitude in your children and you've given them a reason to thank the Lord for his many, many blessings. And this is very, very good!