I cherish the opportunities this season provides to talk about gratitude with my kids. The ability to be grateful fosters a healthy mind and soul. In 2019, a Journal of Happiness Studies study found that gratitude is linked to happiness in children by age 5.
The Quran says, “Show (thy) gratitude to Allah. Any who is (so) grateful does so to the profit of his own soul; but if any is ungrateful, verily Allah is free of all wants, worthy of all praise.”
Another place where science and faith intersect.
How My Family Practices Thankfulness
- Creating the habit of gratitude
- Giving to others
- Sharing stories of gratitude
- Kind Words
Creating the Habit Of Gratitude
I believe gratitude is a habit. It is how you choose to see the world, and that choice is made every moment. I express my gratitude in my prayers, but it is impactful to write down the things you are grateful for and see that list accumulate. Here are a few ways we’ve incorporated gratitude into Thanksgiving and onward!
Family Gratitude Journal
It is an excellent time of year to create a family gratitude journal. Every night at dinner, I write down a few thoughts from around the table. We started this tradition at the beginning of COVID-19 to remember there is still much to be grateful for. Gratitude is more than good manners, and in our journaling, we discuss the layers of gratitude.
The Raising Grateful Children Project at UNC Chapel Hill reports that gratitude has four parts:
- What we NOTICE in our lives for which we can be grateful (What have you been given or what do you already have in your life for which you are grateful?)
- How we THINK about why we have been given those things (Why do you think you received this gift? )
- How we FEEL about the things we have been given (What about the gift makes you feel happy?)
- What we DO to express appreciation in turn (Is there a way you want to show how you feel about this gift?)
On Thanksgiving day, I gift every kid (and adult kid) a Bismillah placemat where they can write down a longer list of things they are grateful about. You can access the download file here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/851455230/islamic-bismillah-placemat-for
Giving To Others
Children are born, thinking “ME” and as they grow they realize there is a “we”. Giving children opportunities to experience the “we”, is a way to foster their empathy and gratitude. One can not exist without the other. Both are rooted in understanding the human experience.
There are many ways for even the youngest children to help those in need. In Pre-school, my kids made care packages for the homeless, sandwich bags filled with essential supplies (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, snack). Good Samari-Tots is a great resource for ideas.
On Thanksgiving day, we gift our guests a small favor. My kids are experts at assembling favors. The act of doing something for a family member (versus yourself) is a building block to gratitude. Ps. These are from the Trader Joe’s honey gift pack.
Sharing Stories Of Gratitude
The best way to learn gratitude is to see others practice it: noticing, thinking, feeling, and doing categories.
On Thanksgiving, we invite our family to share what they are grateful for. Our kids hear how important gratitude is to each one of our family members.
Some of the closest connections children have are the characters they see in books, television, and youtube. I’m Not The Nanny has a wonderful list diverse books to check out. I personally love “Those Shoes”.
Saying Please & Thank You
I grew up speaking Bengali. It is a sweet language full of politeness. My kids speak English, not as naturally sweet. So we practice gracious, polite language, especially saying please and thank yous.
Thank You Notes
And kind words can also be shared in the form of a letter. As soon as my kids formed letters, they started to write Thank You notes, even if its art. It teaches kids that showing appreciation, another form of empathy, is important.
As a kid, Thanksgiving was an epic day, full of family and food. After I had children, I thought a lot about the significance of the day for our Muslim-American family and how to make the spiritual connection. Gratitude in itself, was the only connection I needed.
As an adult, I recognize that the narratives I accepted about Thanksgiving as a child were one-sided. For more on how we celebrate the holiday now: Rethinking Thanksgiving Celebrations: A Native Perspective On Thanksgiving.
Peace & Salam,