Written by Deb del Villar, Director of Communications
“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” – A.A. Milne
As grandparents, we enjoy giving our grandchildren gifts. We love seeing their eyes light up and their smiles grow big. We love the joy it brings to them and to us as well! Yet, are there gifts other than those that come wrapped in ribbons and bows?
Grammy loves receiving hand-written notes and beautifully scribbled drawings from her grandkids. In fact, she saves them, placing the drawings on her refrigerator. When the grandchildren were very young, she encouraged them to draw her a thank you note whenever she sent them a gift. Grammy did this by making a big deal out of the drawing and placing it proudly on her refrigerator. As the grandchildren got older, she gave them thank you notecards as well as helped her older grandkids to create their own from blank note cards. Grammy also is prompt at telling them “thank you” with a phone call, a note, or even a text when they send her something, or she notices something they did. Maybe she saw how Timmy ran over and helped his younger brother who fell down or how Suzie helped Mommy carry in the groceries. She is sure not only to say thank you but why she is grateful. Grammy knows a grateful heart is cultivated.
Grandad loves serving his church, and often on church cleanup days, he takes along Johnnie to help. Johnnie has seen Grandad clean bathrooms, weed gardens, fix cabinets, and even doorknobs that were loose. Johnnie has accompanied Grandad to the grocery store to purchase items for a family in need, even choosing a small toy for the young son. Johnnie loves to go and is becoming quite the little helper. Grandad knows a grateful heart is caught.
Papaw and Mamaw love when the grandkids come for a visit. They enjoy starting the day by singing “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice, and be glad in it.” In fact, they often teach the grandchildren new songs each time they come. At bedtime, Papaw and Mamaw do not have the grandchildren count sheep. Instead, they have them count their blessings. Often singing the song “Count your blessings, name them one by one”. Even if the day had been tough or upsetting, the grandkids are challenged to pray for three things or people they are grateful for that day. For older grandkids, a journal has been provided for them to write out a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Papaw and Mamaw know a grateful heart is a counting heart.
Gigi has noticed that even though she is very intentional in cultivating, modeling, and celebrating so her grandchildren will see and hear her grateful heart, not all her grandchildren have embraced a grateful attitude. She prays that each of her grandchildren will choose a heart that appreciates/relishes in making others happy, and is grateful no matter what life brings (1 Thessalonians 5:18). How she desires that her encouragement and intentionality will build a strong grateful heart that beats for the Lord! A grateful heart that does great things for Him. Gigi knows a grateful heart is a choice.
This holiday season, here are some ideas to help you build with intentionality the character trait of gratefulness in your grandchildren. Choose a few that meet the needs and situation of you and your grandchildren.
“We should certainly count our blessings, but we should also make our blessings count.” Neal A. Maxwell
Practical Ideas for Practicing Gratitude with Grandchildren
- At mealtime, think of three people or things you are grateful for today. Include this in your prayer over the food.
- Role-play with younger children how to be grateful by using stuffed animals or action figures.
- Practice noticing when God answers prayers. For instance, you pray before going shopping with your granddaughter. She finds just the right dress in her size, take time to stop and thank God.
- Be alert to opportunities to bless someone else. While out eating, consider paying for the next car in the drive-through. Picking up someone’s bill at the restaurant such as a police officer as a thank you is another example. Encourage grandkids to thank the police officer for their service.
- Institute a gratitude pumpkin – at Thanksgiving, you could have each family member write on the pumpkin 3 things they are thankful for.
- At Christmastime, you could use the manger and have everyone write on paper slips several reasons they are glad that Jesus came to earth. This could be done throughout the Advent season. At the Christmas meal, you could read through the paper slips and thank God.
- Gratitude Jar – Starting in January, fill it with slips of paper with reasons you are grateful – next New Year’s Eve read through them and thank God for all He did this past year.
- Help or encourage the grandkids to write a Christmas list with ideas for siblings, family members, friends, teachers, etc. What will they give Jesus?
- Make and deliver a plate of cookies to a neighbor or a community helper in your area along with a thank you note. If the grandkids can come along, that is even better. If not, tell them what you did and why.
- Leave surprise notes around home thanking your family members. You could even help the younger grandkids draw or write their own.
- For a grandchild’s birthday, consider making a list of things you are grateful for about them. For instance, if they are five, write five things. If 10, write ten things.
- Holiday Season – know a family in need, encourage them to donate toward the purchase of needed food or clothing items. Do not forget missionaries and their families.
- Save the charitable appeals you get in the mail this season. Set a time to meet with family or grandkids. Once your budget is decided, look through the appeals and choose which one you want to support. Often, it could be something your grandkids are passionate about or interested in.
- While traveling by car, play the alphabet game. See if you can think of things you are grateful for, for every letter of the alphabet. It could also be things you appreciate about each other. “I love Grandma’s Apple pie.”
- While writing Christmas thank you notes, serve hot chocolate and warm cookies, and listen to Christmas music. It becomes a looked forward to activity.
- Find ways they can actively participate in helping someone else. Whether it is through service like raking up leaves, making and delivering a meal, or donating gently used toys and clothing, be creative. They will be a blessing and receive one in return.
- Play Gratitude Game – see https://teachbesideme.com/gratitude-game-pick-sticks/ for instructions on how to play the Gratitude Game using pick-up sticks. Each color of stick stands for something the grandchild is thankful for such as food, a place, a person, and so forth. Can lead to good conversations about being grateful.
William Ward says, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” Grandparents as you intentionally seize opportunities this holiday season to show and tell gratefulness, may God multiply it in the lives of your grandchildren. There are indeed gifts that are more than ribbons and bows that we can give our grandchildren.