Last year, we talked a bit about building family New Year traditions and though I really meant to, I never started that gratitude jar with my family. Here’s my game plan for making the week after Christmas and before New Year’s a gratitude-filled countdown that will open the door for a more gratitude-centered year in 2015:
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. Starting on December 26, 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 on December 31st 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. Let’s take this short week between Christmas and New Year’s to make the time, and start building the habit for ourselves and our children.
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
- 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 end-of-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 next year.
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 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.
We can also use this time to ready ourselves for the gratitude practices of the coming year. If you don’t already have one or more in mind for your own family, a Google or Pinterest search for “family gratitude” will turn up heaps of ideas. For my family, I’ll prepare the gratitude jar I was excited about last year! Here’s how the gratitude jar works (taken from last year’s post):
Starting a Memory Jar
Along the lines of the year book and the card calendar, this is the most spontaneous and kid-friendly version, I think. I saw this somewhere online awhile back, then realized how popular it is when I tried to search down the source for my inspiration (as of yet unfound). 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).
If you’d like a little more help and visuals, check out how Jen Garza, over at Sweet and Simple Living blog, did her gratitude jar (with free printable).