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Rooted in Thankfulness: How to Define Gratitude To Your Kids

Editor’s Note: How to define gratitude for our children can sometimes mean that we as parents need to think differently about what it means to be thankful. J&J mom Tiffany shares how she’s recreating a practice of gratitude in her children, even though she cannot replicate her own vivid childhood memories of the Thanksgiving season.
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Growing up in New York State, my childhood was idyllic. Walking home from school, a dazzling display of fall color draped the hillside. I would run through big piles of leaves and dance amidst bright shades of orange, red and yellow. Sweet red apples, bright orange pumpkins and jugs of hot apple cider covered the shelves of our street corner markets. After school, I would come home to find a fresh batch of mom’s pumpkin seeds and dilly crackers.

There are many old traditions and memories that fill my heart with a feeling of fall, but now that I live in Southern California, it just isn’t the same. The landscape is absent of that vivid fall color and the weather remains fairly temperate. Now that I’m a mom, I keep trying to recreate that season of my childhood by scattering three thousand silk leaves on our hard wood floors every weekend.

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But my children don’t know the difference. It’s the only fall they’ve ever known. They happily make piles of silk leaves and toss them in the air, just as I remember. They snuggle up to the fireplace with a cup of hot cider, albeit the 60 degree evening weather. And of course, we carve our pumpkins and cook the seeds, just the same.

After a long, hot summer with too much to do, the fall gives our family an opportunity to reflect before the closing of another year. We gather with family and friends and acknowledge our many blessings. More important than pumpkin pie, stuffing and potatoes, habits of reflection and gratitude are the traditions I will pass on to my children. I want them to cultivate consistent thoughts of gratitude, not just on this day, but throughout the year.

In keeping with new traditions, and making new memories, a “thankful tree” graces the walls of our home. Before bed, we write notes of gratitude on small leaves and place them on the tree. This habit challenges us to reflect on our day and the many things we have to be thankful for.

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Obvious blessings of family, friends, health and opportunity were written long ago. After many months of this practice, and a long day of work and school, sometimes we struggle for what to be grateful for. But it’s the little things –things that often go unnoticed – that help to establish a solid foundation of gratitude. Scanning my day for blessings and good deeds, the small gesture, a kind word, an open door, allows me to be more mindful and thankful in the present moment.

Just as the large oak tree changes from season to season, changing traditions are inevitable. Instead of grasping to the memories I have, I will instill in my children a feeling of stability, a practice of gratitude; the essence of Thanksgiving and that feeling of fall. These new traditions will remain in my children’s hearts for the rest of their lives, inspiring their senses, and offering newer, sweeter memories of their childhood.

Read more employee Thanksgiving stories. Carrie writes about the real meaning of Thanksgiving.

Tiffany Shaw has been with Johnson & Johnson for over 13 years, working primarily in the Supply Chain, and is currently the Materials Manager at Advanced Sterilization Products. When she’s not at work, or busy being a wife to Derek (11 years) and mother to Mason (7), Elisabeth (7) and Evelyn (3), you might find her running, meditating, or writing a blog at Wife, Mom and Me.

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