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Rose & Rex Family Gratitude Practices

We recently introduced a 5-week Instagram series, Rose & Rex Family Gratitude Practices. Each week, we share simple, practical tips to help your family reflect and connect while exploring shared gratitude practices.

2020 has been a year of tremendous change and the holiday season may bring up some big feelings for the entire family- young and old. Family gratitude practices offer us meaningful opportunities to acknowledge special people, places and experiences in the midst of a very different holiday season. Here are a few of our favorites:

PAUSE AND PRACTICE

Make a conscious effort to express when YOU feel grateful throughout the day. Chat openly with your child about the beauty and goodness that surrounds you: lovely weather, kind friends, a park to explore together, or simply a favorite book to read with a favorite someone. 

My family often runs into friends when we’re out and about in the neighborhood. Afterwards, I share feelings of gratitude with my children. “I feel lucky to have friends that live so close to our home. Seeing George’s family always makes me happy!” 

During especially hectic days, many of us struggle to pause and practice gratitude. Consider setting a gentle reminder on your phone every hour or two (think soothing chime sound vs. jarring alarm), so you can share your gratitude practice with your child throughout the day, wherever you are. At the dentist? Maybe you’re grateful for the view of tall trees swaying out the window or the kind receptionist who made you feel comfortable when you arrived. Pausing to practice gratitude in the presence of our children greatly impacts their ability to develop gratitude practices of their own.    

SHARE DAILY

Maybe your to-do list is overwhelming. Perhaps you feel like you’re spending the entire day racing from one Zoom call to another. Or both. Committing to a family gratitude practice may seem daunting, but can take just a few minutes each day. Here’s how to create a daily ritual that inspires your entire family to reflect and connect:

  • Find a time of day that works for your family. When are you most likely to be in the same place at the same time? Life happens, but try to be as consistent as possible. Dinner time works for some families, but bedtime may be a better, more realistic fit. 
  • Gather your family and explain the importance of truly listening and being fully present with one another during this special time. TVs and computers off. Phones out of sight. 
  • Choose a gratitude practice that feels right for your family. Some families may choose to say or sing a prayer of thanksgiving together. Others may take turns sharing the very best part of their day with one another. When it’s your turn to share, be sure to use the word “grateful” or “thankful” in a context that your children can understand. “Today, I went for a run in Central Park and noticed beautiful, colorful leaves. I am grateful for my strong, healthy body because I love running!”

          The dinner table has become a sacred space for my own family. We begin each dinner with a toast to someone or something special to us. When we first began this gratitude practice my son would raise his cup and exclaim, “Mama”, “Dada” or “Molly the cat”. He now expresses gratitude for specific friends from school or his cousins and grandparents, who he misses dearly. Sometimes, he even toasts to a favorite place. Cheers to Central Park!

          SEND A LETTER

          Help your child reflect on the special people in his or her life.

          “Who makes you feel happy? How?”

          “Who teaches you new things?”

          “Who helps you when you’re feeling sad or hurt? How?” 

          Invite your child to send a letter of gratitude to a friend, classmate, family member, teacher, or someone from the community that has made an impact on your child. If you don’t have an individual’s address, you could always hand-deliver! 

          If your child is unable to write her own words, have her dictate to you. A prompt may be helpful for younger children:

           “Thank you for ___________.” 

          “I am grateful for you because _____________.”
          “You make me happy when ________________.”

          Involve your child in every step of the process: choosing art materials, folding and placing the letter inside an envelope, selecting a stamp, taking a walk to a nearby mailbox. Chat with your child about how it feels to express gratitude for others and discuss the impact his or her letters may have on the recipients. 

          Artistic expressions of gratitude are always an option, too! Some children may prefer to bead a necklace, paint a picture, or create a collage, rather than sending a letter. As you craft together, chat with your child about WHY he or she is grateful for the people in his or her life. Be sure to record your child’s thoughts and include a note with your special delivery. 

          For more strategies to reflect and connect as a family, check out our Rose & Rex Digital Guide to Finding Your Family Zen

          About the Author
          Lauren Vien taught in private Manhattan preschools for over a decade before joining the Rose & Rex team as Education Director. With a masters in Early Childhood Education and Special Education from NYU, Lauren is deeply passionate about positive language and developmental play. She lives on the Upper West Side with her husband and two young children, Henry and Violet. Family pastimes include building with couch cushions, preparing plant-based meals, and scooting to neighborhood playgrounds.
           
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