Let’s Celebrate Thanksgiving – Countering Intolerance With Gratitude As Parents

Today every parent is wondering how to explain terrorism and these grotesque acts in the name of religion to their child. Yesterday Amir Khan’s comment on Intolerant India once again brought up the angst of the current times. While tempers ran high, I mentioned in my Facebook post that may be social media was flaming this fire.. where a single angry comment could be easily converted into a virtual mob frenzy  by the Twiterrati. My dear hubby, an analyst to the core said “Well things have gotten so much better.. Do you even remember the fears we had in the 90s around the bomb blasts?” Then I came across this Fred Rogers quote

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

Then it hit me,. we have ended up feeling more entitled than appreciative. Growing up in an age of such abundance and instant gratification, there are few opportunities to wait patiently and develop a real appreciation for anything. Want new clothes?  Shop online and they’ll be here tomorrow. A new book or game? Download it rightaway. Kids get graduation caps in Kindergarten and return gifts for  enjoying a birthday party!! Clearly we need to need to pause and stress the practice of gratitude — deliberately, and consistently.

So here is my new initiative –forget Halloween, lets import Thanksgiving tomorrow. I am sure the intolerant will pounce to say we have enough festivals in India that celebrate the bounty of the harvest like Pongal, Basant Panchami and Ugadi. But Thanksgiving is unique among holidays. It is not religious, nor does it commemorate a political event or victory in war. It is purely secular and brings to the forefront the most important fabric of all festivals – brings friends and family together. But today, for us parents it is more importantly, it is a specific time carved to stop and be grateful for all we are blessed with.

Here are five new Thanksgiving traditions to kickstart with your kids this year

1.     Physically say, write, text or post on your wall or email one of your blessings everyday.

Set a time in the day or set a target.. whether at the breakfast table before  you rush out or in the afternoon checking FB or in your favourite active whatsappgroup…take 5 mins to actually verbalize one thing you are thankful for that day.

A friend of mine recently dedicated each day of an entire month to 30 special friends, reminiscing the joy and times spent together on FB posts. Trust me, not just that one special friend, the entire circle reading that post was filled with a warm mushy feeling in the heart and the amount of happiness and goodwill generated for  zero money was truly something else.

2.     Highlight “experiences” rather than stuff:

“How lucky we are to see such a beautiful rainbow!” Even when they receive gifts, focus on the thought behind the gift. “That was so sweet for them to look for that science kit for you; you must be a really good friend.”

3.   Hit the “rewind” button. (Suggested here) Explain the steps that made it possible for your child to have certain simple things, like a glass of milk. A farmer had to raise the cow, get up early to milk it … you had to go to work to get money to pay for it… It helps to get them thinking about what goes into everyday things and the importance of playing a part, rather than the milk just “appearing” before them. When they start to realize how much work and effort go into things, they appreciate them more

4.   Encourage them to give back:  Today opportunities to experience the joy of giving are plenty..prepare food bags for homeless people you pass on the street, donate used toys and clothing, participate in a charity marathon, assist elderly neighbours, visit nursing-home residents. Experiencing the gratitude that others feel for their small acts of kindness makes a lasting impression on kids.

5.   Find the silver lining: Change  your  have-to’s to get-to’s. Go from “I have to drop you to class” to “Good to get to this time to tell you a funny story!” Gratitude can be the most helpful when things don’t go as planned or when things are difficult. Acknowledge and validate feelings of frustration or sadness but also help your child s on how to express these feelings without hurting others. Discover your sense of humour and help kids focus on the positive. It is often perspective more than circumstance.

Creating an environment in your home where kids see a living example of gratefulness will go a long way in teaching kids to appreciate what they have. This in turn will hopefully nurture a more tolerant and thankful generation, focusing on positive change rather than playing the blame game.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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