They say it's not happy people who are grateful, but grateful people who are happy. With that in mind, how can we teach our kids to be grateful and, therefore, happy people?
We've played the game before dinner or bed where each family member has to name something for which they are grateful. I think there is some amount of pressure that goes with being "on the spot" there, and the kids feeling that they each have to have something better than the other, or a "right" answer. That led to a lot of "I'm grateful for my family," which is true and fantastic, but I wanted my kids to be able to dig deeper and really appreciate more of the little things.
So we came up with "happy jars." Each family member, myself included, has a clear glass jar labeled with their name. Any time something makes one of us feel especially happy or grateful, we write it on a colorful slip of paper (kept nearby) and stick it in the jar. These thoughts can be shared at the time or kept secret for the moment - except for my son, who is too young to write much more than his name. Either his sister or I help him write down his happy moments.
The thoughts can be simple, fun ones - I'm pretty sure there's more than one "snow day" in there already! There are also some achievements, like being proud of my kids for good grades or exceptional behavior. And I've even heard some very thoughtful ideas already, like being thankful for "grammy" (my mother) having dinner with us. Anything goes.
At the end of the year we will open the jars and read all about how wonderful our year has been. There's not a strict end date of course - if we have a particularly bad day and are in need of some cheering up, there is always the option to open the jars early. There's a strong possibility we will even bake a happy cake - because any celebration is a good excuse for homemade cake in our house!
Stacy Lamb of Apex is the divorced mom of two. She is an active member and former organizer of Single Parents of the Triangle. Find her here monthly.