Parenting comes to life in the stories we share.
Whether it’s a moment of joy or a moment of distress, we can learn from each other.
Sharon Wallace, Waterloo ON
I believe that gratitude builds connection—and, as a parent, I have found that a daily gratitude practice is a wonderful way to connect with our kids.
Connecting with our children when they are in their teenage years becomes increasingly difficult. There are many demands for their time and attention. Not to mention that it so often seems that teens look first to their peers and social media for connection rather than to their parents.
As a parent of a 16 year old, I have discovered that having a gratitude practice has been one of the best ways of connecting.
My daughter and I share a nightly gratitude practice as part of our bedtime routine. When she was little, it was books and snuggles. Now, I go into her room once she is settled in bed, lay down beside her and we each share three things that we are grateful for. Depending on our moods, the items we list can range from the rather basic . . . “I’m grateful for ceilings, walls, and floors.” to the more serious . . . “I’m grateful for scientists who are working on climate change, clean water, and a safe place to live.” to the rather silly . . . “I’m grateful for water balloons, knock knock jokes, and silly putty.” Then there are those moments when what we share is quite emotional…”I’m grateful for the hug you gave me when I was sad this morning.”
As we share our items, it often leads to longer and sometimes deeper conversations. We might talk about worries or concerns that my daughter has, world events, or share a fun time that leads to inside jokes. Only my daughter knows why I call horses, cows. And, only my daughter finds it funny! We have both now forgotten the gratitude conversation that lead to that, but the connection that it built between us remains.
The other night, I opened our conversation with one of my lame knock knock jokes. After a groan and a decided eye-rolling, my daughter told me that if I continue to tell her knock knock jokes, instead of gratitude at night with me, she’ll start an UN-gratitude list!
I think she was joking but I’m not taking that risk! I want our daily (well, nightly) gratitude practice to continue. So sadly, no more knock knock jokes for me!
When we go through a tough day, we still list what we are grateful for. There is ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, something to be grateful for. Gratitude is a choice and we can strengthen our gratitude “muscle” through daily practice.
In addition to our nightly gratitude practice, we also have a gratitude “wall”. It is right by our front door so it is one of the first things we see when we leave or come home.
One night a few years ago, I came home from work tired and feeling a bit depressed. My daughter greeted me at the front door and challenged me to a gratitude contest. For the next 10 minutes, we each took turns writing something we were grateful for. Neither one of us ran out of things to be grateful for! In that short period of time, I went from feeling depressed with low energy to feeling a lovely connection to my daughter. I was energized and feeling much more positive. That small investment of time paid big dividends!
Our gratitude wall continues to play an important role in our home. I recently came home and found my daughter with two of her friends clustered around the wall and all three of them were laughing and talking and writing down things they were grateful for. Gratitude builds connection. It’s contagious!
In March of 2018, I was excited to add my gratitude to Plasticity Labs’ attempt to build the World’s Biggest Gratitude Wall. Their gratitude wall is much bigger than ours is! However, ours is older. Our wall has been a fixture in our home for over a decade. Each new year we replace the paper and start a fresh one. It is a wonderful way to start each new year.
There are other benefits of practicing gratitude besides an increased connection between us. Studies show that practicing gratitude is good for teen mental health. It improves self-esteem, increases empathy and boosts mental health. All things I want for my daughter! And for myself.
Knock knock…..open up “the door” in your life to gratitude and share it with your children. I guarantee that you will not regret it!