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Grandfriends Day inspires gratitude

November 28, 2018
By Billy Handmaker

“Showing gratitude is one of the simplest yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.”
-Randy Pausch

I love Grandfriends Day. At every school where I have been an educator, I have watched with admiration and joy as grandparents, older relatives, senior friends of the family, and children spend time together visiting classes, learning about the children’s school, and just being in the company of one another. Grandfriends Day at Keystone two weeks ago was an absolutely pleasure to to behold, particularly since so many grandfriends came from near and far to be there. The online Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines the word kvell as “to be extraordinarily proud or rejoice,” and even uses the following example to explain this concept -”proud grandparents who kvell over everything their precious little darlings do.” There was plenty of kvelling on Grandfriends Day, and many people expressed how grateful they were to be a part of it.

So, how do we take this mindset of gratitude we observed that day and is so prominent at this time of year and make it something that is always present? In the craziness of our lives, it’s easy to lose sight of the things for which we have to be grateful, and as parents and educators, we can forget to include teaching children how to be appreciative. Like other things in life that we want to make sure young people learn, we need to make time for teaching gratitude, and we should impress upon them that this is not something that you grow out of, or is just for when you’re young. Intentionality is the key in our helping our children learn these lessons.

Fortunately, there are people out there who have thought about teaching gratitude, so we can borrow their ideas and translate them to our families. A posting by Alexandra Eidens from November 16, 2017 on the Big Life Journal gives useful hints for ways to do this. She describes both a 7 Day Gratitude Challenge and 20 Ideas to Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude in Children. Both might be helpful.

For example, the 7 Day Challenge, which even contains a kit with activities, games, and topics for discussion, can help make children more aware of simple things that they may take for granted. They can practice writing a thank you letter (yes, even in today’s world there is still a place for these), create a gratitude jar, or just go around at the dinner or breakfast table and describe something for which they are grateful. As with other routines like doing chores or working out, expressing gratitude can become habitual if it’s repeated and reinforced.

Eidens also lists twenty what may seem mundane or banal ways to engender a sense of gratitude. Some may feel so obvious that they may be overlooked; however, in hectic times, it is often the little things that are dropped and slowly deteriorate the ways in which people interact with one another. For decades now there have been studies on the slow decline in social capital in the United States and the increasing coarseness in our public life; perhaps one way to halt this degeneration is for us to pay more attention to the simple ways that we can improve our interactions with other people. Beyond teaching our children to say “please” and “thank you,” we can encourage them to compliment others, to maintain a gratitude journal, and to refocus envy into appreciation.

As we move into the holiday season, we can maximize this time of year to develop habits of gratitude that can then carry us through the rest of the year. Like other routines that become established after thirty days, we can practice a new daily gratitude habit into January 2019 that will then become a natural part of our daily lives. Eidens explains at the end of her piece, that gratefulness is a skill; it’s like reading, riding a bike, or playing a musical instrument. As the old joke goes, when a man was asked by a stranger in New York City how to get to Carnegie Hall, the correct answer is “practice, practice, practice.”