Gratitude builds Connection–REALLY!

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!

 

Editor’s Note: For other ideas about connecting with your teen, check out our article, Staying Connected with Our Teens.  Or, check out this video, https://youtu.be/XBvgS3F2YOk

 



Comments

5 Responses to “Gratitude builds Connection–REALLY!”

  1. Hayley says:

    I love this idea so much, Sharon

  2. Teresa says:

    Ahhh, what a beautiful ritual – I love the connection you and your daughter have over this.

  3. Nadia says:

    What a great way to connect with children and to be grateful for things that we start taking for granted. Thanks for sharing Sharon.

  4. Sharon says:

    Thanks Sally. Dinner together is a wonderful way to connect with kids eh? I love my gratitude wall so much that I have made one for work too!

  5. Sally says:

    What a great family ritual you have created. All of my Chikdren at some point are asked to do a project on family traditions, celebrations and things there family does that makes them unique. It makes me stop and think what values I’m encouraging in our home. We make a practise of sitting together for dinner ( in the exact same spots at the table ) I often try to ask each person what the best thing that happened to them that day. Or if I have to dig I will say name one thing that made you smile. I‘ ve realized now that some of my kids are grown and their chairs at the table are empty and they were upset to hear I want a table with 6 chairs instead of 8 that my daily ritual of eating together as a family was worthwhile and valued by the kids.
    I am going to hang a paper by my front door and start the gratitude wall. Such a great idea.

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