Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thankful For Small Things

Dr. Susan Bartell

November marks the official beginning of the ‘Holiday Season’…that time of year when commercialism kicks into super-high gear, and those of us who care have to work hard to remember, and remind our kids of the true meaning of the holidays (Mom, you mean it’s not about how many gifts I get?!)

November is also a month that reminds us to be thankful each year, even now during leaner, tougher times…when we may not be feeling overly optimistic.

However, the truth is that you can always find parts of your life for which to be thankful. Indeed, it is important to focus your energy on these positive aspects of your daily existence because these will carry you through the tough times. In fact, research shows that people who are more positive and optimistic are—by far—less stressed, and are better able to cope with difficult times than those who focus primarily on the negative parts of life. 

In addition, when you are thankful, positive and optimistic, you actually role model these traits and behaviors for your child. Did you know that a child is able to learn to be positive and optimistic—and actually be inoculated against depression—by behaving in the same positive, optimistic way a parent behaves? Really! Thankful, positive feelings and behavior are that powerful!

So how do you start being thankful even if you’re not in the mood? Begin by feeling thankful for your child (or children) and go from there. But wait…don’t focus on the nagging, whining, or bickering. Instead, when you’re concentrating on being thankful, pay attention to the hugs and kisses, to the curiosity and learning, and to the independence and determination that your child displays each day. Even on my worst days, if I focus on appreciating the three beautiful children growing up in front of my eyes, it’s difficult not to be thankful!

Next, make a list of the qualities and traits about yourself that you appreciate and value. Are you friendly, smart, loyal, hardworking, nurturing? Write as many of these down as you can. Add to the list as often as possible. Carry the list with you and read it often. Begin to be thankful for yourself and your ability to bring immense value to your own life, the life of your child and the other people whose lives you touch!

Last, aside from being a role model for your child, show her how to be thankful. Thankfulness is like a muscle—to be strong, it requires a little heavy lifting. Teach your child to be thankful and appreciative for the small and big things in his life. Begin by making sure he says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ every time, to every person in every situation. This may seem trivial, but it’s not! It teaches your child to be thankful for gifts; to be appreciative when someone holds open the door; to value a friend’s hard work at preparing a meal; and to be grateful when you buy her a new pair of sneakers.

This is a great start. Now keep going! Before long you and your child will recognize that there are so many things for which to be thankful, that you will be uplifted in the true spirit of the Holiday Season! 

About the Author: Dr. Susan Bartell is America’s #1 Family Psychologist. Her latest book is The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask. You can learn more about her on her website at

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