One of the greatest gifts of grandparenting is to see and appreciate the wisdom in the children around us.
Often, as parents, we are so busy doing all that needs to be done, we can overlook the lessons our children offer us.
With more time for focus and contemplation, grandparents are rewarded with the vision that children come to us with all the wisdom we humans need for happy living. They help us relearn what we have forgotten.
They remind us how to play, they reunite us with our imaginations, and they help us focus on a mere moment in time.
Those tiny tots can even show us how to love ourselves. Read my post, How to Help Your Kids Keep Self Love Alive.
And they know the secret to sharing love and gratitude freely and constantly.
SO MUCH ADVICE ON GRAND GRATITUDE
If you type the word ‘gratitude’ into your browser, you will be rewarded with hundreds of articles outlining the benefits and giving advice on how to be grateful.
My five-year-old Goddess can’t read these things yet. But she doesn’t need to. She already feels gratitude regularly.
Just the other day she said; “Grandy, I have a really good life you know.
“You and Grandad, and Nanny and Bumpy, and Mummy and Daddy, you all do lots of things to make my life good.”
It took my breath away. This little girl was expressing so succinctly and easily, a feeling that many of us adults have to work hard on achieving.
This little Goddess sees the beauty in everything around her. She gets so excited when a new flower blossoms.
This Goddess is so impressed with our feathered visitors that she has memorised the names of all the different parrot species that come into our yard.
She expresses love so freely too. When we pick her up from school we have to do a tour of the grounds so she can say a special goodbye to each and every one of her friends. Many of them receive giant hugs as well.
This Goddess gives magical hugs, so intensely full of love you feel you have been touched by an angel.
I sure will miss those cuddles when she gets a little older and decides it’s not so cool anymore.
KEEPING GRAND GRATITUDE ALIVE
However, I’m determined to help her keep that feeling of gratitude alive so it’s not something she has to relearn as an adult.
This is so important because, if not an antidote to depression (a major problem for teenage youth) then it is at least a preventative.
Research has shown that teenagers who express gratitude are less likely to have depression, abuse drugs and alcohol or have behavioural problems.
We all know, or should if we are at the grand-parenting stage of life, how gratitude makes us feel good.
It is also good for us. Those positive emotions help us to see more possibilities and open our minds to learn more.
Practicing gratitude can actually make us healthier.
According to Professor Paul J. Mills of the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, patients with asymptomatic heart failure, who practised gratitude for eight weeks, were found to have better moods, better sleep, less fatigue and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers related to cardiac health.
Practising gratitude has been linked to strengthening the immune system, lowering blood pressure and reducing aches and pains.
It’s a fact that positive thoughts attract positive outcomes, so feeling positive invites more reasons to be grateful in your life.
This, in turn, leads to more positive actions and can even build better relationships.
GRATITUDE IN GRANDKIDS
Isn’t this what we all want for our grandkids?
So how do we keep that feeling alive as they head towards the teen years, traditionally full of angst and anger as those young adults try to determine who they really are?
One of the biggest gifts we can give them, is not giving. Well, at least not over giving.
Overindulging grandkids can lead them towards feelings of expectation and entitlement. Is this the ‘gift’ you really want to give them?
Believe me, I know how difficult it is to say ‘no’. I know what discipline it takes not to buy them their favourite toy.
I also know how incredibly beautiful it is to see their faces light up when they are aware, and grateful, for the ‘gifts’ surrounding them every day. The beautiful flower. The awe-inspiring tree. The little bees that work so hard to make their honey.
By constantly directing their focus on these gifts, we can help keep the spirit of gratitude alive and well in our children.
I practised this with my own children. Among many payoffs for this, one particularly sticks in my mind.
CHILDREN TEACHING US GRATITUDE
I was going through a rather heartbreaking time and couldn’t seem to lift myself out of the sadness and feeling of hopelessness. I was driving my youngest son, then 15, to an appointment and my sadness filled the car like a dark and heavy blanket.
My son pointed out a particularly beautiful moon.
“Mum, look at that moon, it is so beautiful,” he said.
I glanced at it and mumbled some sorrow filled remark.
He said; “No Mum, really look at it. You’ve always loved the moon and you’ve always told us to appreciate how beautiful it is.”
His words didn’t have an immediate impact. But they were there.
They stayed with me and twirled around and through my sadness until they settled in my heart.
They made me realise my focus had been misplaced. Shortly afterwards, I started a gratitude journal and, though it took some time, worked my way to happy again.
And, because of that, I am in a position to keep the happiness, and the gratitude, alive in my grandchildren. The gift keeps giving.
GRAND GRATITUDE IN GOOD TIMES AND BAD
Communication is a key factor in helping kids remain grateful. Not only should it help them focus on all the beauty that surrounds us, but also to find and be thankful for the unexpected gifts.
When something goes wrong, or they have made a mistake, we can ask them what they learned from it. Then we can point out that this was an important lesson and it was good they have learned it so soon. In other words, that mishap or mistake actually contained a gift and we can even be grateful when things aren’t going quite as planned.
A practical way to help kids remain aware and thankful of the good in their lives is to have open conversations with them about the people around them who are helping them – parents, teachers, and friends.
The Goddesses and I have started a Love Jar. Basically, we decorated an old coffee jar. Each month we each write down one reason we love other family members. I get the kids to tell me one thing they love about Grandy, Grandad, Mummy, Daddy and their sibling, as well as one thing they love about themselves.
We put the little pieces of paper with the love words written on them into the jar. When the year is over we will make little love books for each family member mentioned and then start again.
This keeps the kids’ attention of the lovely things others do for them. It is also a wonderful reminder to the family about how valued they are.
If you already have teens in your life, you can help by trying some of the great ideas in this post by Zora Hughes.
Wishing you plenty of opportunities to express gratitude and have a gleeful week, Tamuria.