Join us as Acquisitions Editor, Linda MacKillop, discusses ways to teach your kids how to be thankful.
“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Let’s consider all the hardships in our lives and in the lives of our kids. Financial issues. Relationship struggles. Shattered dreams. Injuries. Attending a new school. Struggling with grades. Failing to make a sports team. Broken-down cars, bodies, houses, bikes, etc.
And then there’s the concept of giving thanks. How do we maintain an attitude of gratitude when times are hard, and most especially, how do we pass that attitude down to our kids? When our prayers are being answered left and right, no problem! We don’t hesitate to count off a list of blessings and attribute them to God. But what about the times when the heavens seem silent?
The longer you live on earth, the more likely you are to learn that we never get to a place where life is all smooth sailing, with all challenges vanquished. We might experience a moment or a season where the challenges subside, but remember it’s only a moment. Yet we’re not told to only be thankful in those moments. We are to be thankful in everything.
Certainly at the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims had much to be grateful for as they gathered on the shores of Plymouth, Massachusetts, for a feast. God had brought them over tumultuous seas to live in a beautiful and plentiful land. He had given them friendships with the natives. He had provided food and shelter and fruitful bounty. He had given them a new life, a new world, and a new beginning.
So they paused and gave thanks.
But I bet that in the midst of all that gratitude, some folks had achy backs, scary physical issues, bad coughs, concerns about the approaching hard winter, and longings for the home and family members they left behind. Yet they intentionally gathered with their new friends and, as a community, bowed their heads and gave thanks to God, the provider of all good gifts. We follow their model yearly as we pause to remember our blessings in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life’s good and bad.
We love to tell our children about the Pilgrims and all they had to eat that day. But we should also let kids know that life was hard for that small community.
In our own lives, teaching our kids to maintain a grateful attitude begins when they are young, steering them toward thoughts of God even when sickness or hurts invade our families. Practicing thankfulness in the midst of life’s challenges will storm proof our children’s faith by showing them God is not only in charge when they are singing and dancing through their days; he is in charge all the time. Looking for him in the hard days will train our children to look for his blessings, pausing to see how he has worked in the challenging moments, and keeping their hearts and minds in tune with his Spirit.
Point out people you know who manage challenges with thankful attitudes. Do you know someone who is going through cancer or a financial setback like unemployment, yet remains prayerful, grateful, and focused on God? Gently remind your children that our goal is to behave like those folks with grateful attitudes.
Talk to your kids about how they feel being around relatives or friends going through hard times with strength and faith. Can they see Christ in those people’s walks? Are those people enjoyable to be around even though they are hurting? Granted, some people have sunnier personalities and naturally lean toward thankfulness rather than cynicism, but we live in a cynical and sarcastic culture. Cultivating a different spirit takes focus and intentionality. And we begin by first becoming aware of our need to cultivate a different spirit—to choose the attitude we want to reflect.
Lastly, do you think God asks us to be thankful because it’s good for us, or because he delights in our gratitude? Maybe you can consider that question as you gather around your Thanksgiving table, enjoying a day of riches with family and friends.
“Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the nations, and I will sing praises to Your name.” 2 Samuel 22:50