Expressing Gratitude as a Family

Creating a culture of gratitude while giving back as a family.

By its very name, Thanksgiving provides us with an opportunity to slow down and reflect on the things for which we are thankful. 

One of my favorite memories is sitting around a large dinner table, Grandma and Grandpa at each end with all my aunts, uncles, and cousins recounting our gratitude. My uncles and older cousins could easily reduce us all to tears of laughter with their hilarious stories of holidays past. But, inevitably, there also were sweet stories of thanks that choked us with emotion.

My cousins and I all have families of our own now and have long since outgrown Grandma’s dinner table. But I want to cultivate that same sense of thankfulness in my daughter, not just during the holidays, but throughout her life as well.

With the frenetic pace at which we all tend to live our lives, especially during the holidays, a precious part of my little family’s day is the time spent before bed, snuggled up on the couch talking about the day’s events.

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We talk about the things for which we are thankful. It seems like such a small thing, and often my 3 year old is thankful for the things she sees around the room (like the TV remote), but it is sowing small seeds of gratitude in her heart.

As I express appreciation for how hard daddy works at his job all day long so mommy can stay home with the little one, I am modeling a thankful attitude.


Author Randy Alcorn says,

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Expressing gratitude makes a grateful heart. Children who learn to say thanks become more thankful. Gratitude is a wonderful perspective-shaping habit.

Giving Back


Another practice that shapes our perspective is teaching our children to give back and think about others.

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The holidays can often be a catalyst to look for ways to serve. The obvious tradition for a lot of people is to serve a meal at a soup kitchen, but for those of us with little ones we need other options.

After a quick search on the Internet, I compiled a list of excellent ways that you and your family can serve your local community while cultivating an attitude of compassion and kindness in your young children.

  1. Fill reusable grocery bags with their favorite non-perishable food items. Feeding America offers a Food Bank locator searchable by zip code.

  2. Stuff new, warm socks with water bottles and granola bars to give to homeless men and women you pass on street corners.

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  • Decorate holiday cards for local members of the armed forces, veterans and their families. Red Cross-sponsored Holiday Mail for Heroes will deliver letters postmarked before December 2, 2017.

  • Box up gently used clothing to donate to your local family shelter, refugee center or charity thrift store.

  • Donate kids’ craft kits to a local children’s hospital.

  • Bring gently used board games and decks of cards to a local homeless shelter.

  • Visit a local nursing home in your community. Bring games, crafts or books to spend an afternoon bringing joy to the people living there. Be sure to call the nursing home in advance to make arrangements for how your family can best help.

  • • Give a gift through World Vision’s gift catalog

  • • Have children color pictures for Color a Smile

  • • Sponsor a child through Compassion International

        In her book Choosing Gratitude, Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes,

        The person who has chosen to make gratitude his or her mindset and lifestyle can view anything – anything! – through the eyes of thankfulness. The whole world looks different when we do.

        When we teach our children to look to the needs of those around them, rather than to their own needs, we raise grateful children instead of entitled children.

        Start a new tradition this Thanksgiving and help to create a culture of thankfulness and empathy in your home.

        Annie Wiesman

        Annie Wiesman

        Annie Wiesman is the co-author of “Education Begins at Birth: A Parent’s Guide to Preparing Infants, Toddlers, and Preschoolers for Kindergarten.” She is a former kindergarten teacher turned stay-at-home mom who enjoys traveling, hiking in the mountains, and creating memories together with her husband and little girl.

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