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Gratitude: A New Year's Family Tradition

January 08, 2021

Stepping into a new year tends to be all about the "new year, new me" and setting New Year's resolutions that we may or may not end up sticking to. So this year, whether you're setting yourself up for success or not, here are some gratitude-centered traditions you can work on with the whole family..

1. SAY THANK YOU
Being grateful has more impact in the world when we give that gratitude to others by way of saying thank you. It reminds them and us that life is full of gifts of love that make the world we share a better place for everyone.

This year, I’m setting out a year-in-review gratitude station.
I’ll invite my family (including myself) to take a moment each day to write out or draw something that expresses gratitude for a moment, a gift or a person, which touched us this year. I’ll hang these up in the house as we go.
Here are my station supplies:

  • Tray big enough to hold all the paper, pens, etc.
  • Paper stack (a variety of shapes and colors is especially nice)
  • Jar of crayons, pencils and markets
  • Twine, ribbon or yarn to string up the completed pieces

This is fun and heartwarming on its own, and also serves as a gratitude jumpstart for the coming year. It may be fun, too, to take some time each weekend to read through each of the pieces as a family.

I found this post at MPMK (Modern Parents Messy Kids) especially inspiring in regards to motivating a gratitude practice. Loved her three reasons why cultivating gratitude in our families is beneficial (hint: #1 is that it increases self-worth).

2. WRITE THANK-YOUS
Oh, the dying art of thank-you note writing! We barely find time to answer emails, respond to all those sweet Facebook holiday notes (with good grammar, even), and call family and friends near and far. So, we know finding the time to sit down and write thank-you notes can seem impossible.

Like my gratitude station above, I’m working on a simple little thank-you note box to help us exercise and build up our thank-you note writing muscles. My little box is shaping up to include, quite simply:

  • Thank-you and blank cards and envelopes
  • Pens
  • Stamps
  • Sturdy, attractive box to hold these things

This set up is kept in the “command center” area of my home, in easy reach. For this special start of the year gratitude week, it will live on the dining room table. Each day, we plan to write at least one thank-you note for the following:

  • Gifts received for the holidays
  • Favors received for the holidays
  • Services received for the holidays

Even if we only get through the gifts, we’ll be doing great! It will be its own lovely accomplishment to write and send these thank-you notes. However, like the gratitude activity above, it will also be a little jumpstart for the thank-you note writing habit I plan to invest more time and effort in this year.

You may like this little list of 13 ideas for homemade thank-you notes with children.

3. ORGANIZE FUTURE THANKS
With the thank-you note box in action and stocked, this piece is well organized already. We need only set ourselves up for success with this one. A good rule of thumb is to write a thank you card for gifts received as soon as possible, and no more than one week after receipt (otherwise, it’ll probably never happen). With children, it’s especially good to write the note within a day or two if possible as the excitement of the gift is still present and will be more alive in the thank you. For very young children that can’t write, it’s sweet to send a small drawing of theirs (even messy one-year-old scribbles) with a simple note from you.

 

EXTRA: STARTING A MEMORY JAR
You simply designate a big jar for moments of gratitude/joy/what-have-you memories, and as things happen that you want to include, write them on a paper and slip them in the jar. At the end of the year, you can take turns pulling out the slips and reading them aloud. I think this is a beautiful way to close the year with family. Each year's memories could then go into a manila envelope that the children will adore looking through when they're adults (I would).