An Exercise in Discussing Gratitude
As spring kicks into high gear, and my husband and I begin our warm weather ritual of shuttling our family around on weekends to outdoor events and festivals, I really want to teach them, and remind myself, of the gift we are being given by others. From a school carnival to a community music festival, there are no small parts when it comes to making an activity or event come together. However, sometimes when in the midst of experiencing these moments, we can get stuck in focusing on whatever doesn’t work perfectly, especially nowadays when we can so easily use social media to amplify our annoyances and get a lot of blue thumbs in agreement.
Fostering something called “gratitude discussions” with our children is one way to keep the emphasis on being appreciative of the work that went into any event or experience, and away from the small guffaws or moments that didn’t go perfectly.
I first heard about gratitude discussions from an article on Gratitude Activities for the Classroom. The discussions were developed from a larger gratitude curriculum put together by researchers Jeffrey Froh and Ciacomo Bono, whose area of research is (surprise, surprise!) gratitude. The discussion process, as outlined in the article, is fairly straightforward. You articulate something you are grateful for. You refocus that something as a gift you were given. You then talk about how a person or people created that gift by acting on a perceived need, recognize the work given by the person and people in making that gift a reality, and reflect on how you personally received value from the gift. By going through these steps, you deepen your experience and appreciation.
Since I don’t have a classroom, but I do have a lovely and chaotic family, one of the ways I suggest incorporating this idea of the gratitude discussion is by making the often invisible work behind these community events we attend visible. On the car rides home from an event, practice this discussion as a way to reflect on your experience. We recently attended a book and music festival and afterwards we all reflected on the work done by the volunteers, writers, musicians, the people selling food, the bounce house workers and the circus performers, the parking attendants, and the baby armadillo (my kids focused a lot on that armadillo), all of whom and more played a part in our experience, and how they worked to make it that way.
I really value these discussions because I want my children to see the work that is necessary to make their experiences so special. I want them to value that work, not feel entitled to it.
And if an event isn’t perfect, well, take one peek under your own couch cushions and acknowledge that none of us are. But the people whose often invisible work drives our community events forward deserve the attention, and gratitude, of our children and ourselves. And before you drive away from an event, thank someone for their contribution to making it special for you. After all, they were giving you a gift to remember.
[Photo credit: (cc) je4vo1]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amy is a freelance writer and digital communications specialist who has lived in Western Massachusetts for the last ten years. The mother of two young daughters, Amy is a frequenter of coffee shops and bookstores, and an avid hiker. She is a long-time student of mindfulness meditation, and loves nothing more than a good friend, a good book, or a good nap.