I’ve shared before the art project–Our Family Rules Board–that turned into a Nightly Examen with Children. I would like to say, although ideally, we would do this every single evening, life does sometimes interrupt our best plans. And if evening time does not work for your family, try during midday during a lunch break. Sometimes midday can help recapture a day that may have gotten off to a bad start or gotten out of hand. The purpose is to begin a nightly examen for children that they will then carry into their adult lives. And if you miss a day, grant yourself and your family grace.
I have posted on the first question, “Did I encourage others today?” (Bible Quotes: Encourage One Another) and the second question, “Did I pray frequently today? Did I pray for others today.” (Examen for Children: Teaching Our Children Prayer) Today let’s consider, “Was I thankful today? Did I tell God and others ‘Thank you.'”
So many of my parental thoughts right now can begin with this sentence, “I did a much better job when…” Life seems so busy and chaotic right now with teens and preteens all the way down to toddlers. But I have resolved to get back into the habit of reminding my older children and teaching younger ones to thank God for all things.
This practice can be a simple and easy one to start with even the youngest toddler. “Yes, that is a pretty leaf. How nice of God to make that beautiful leaf for you to find today. Thank you, God for the pretty leaf.” Or, “That was so much fun playing with our friends today. Thank you for God for (and then list your friends) or the park you played at.”
As children get older a reminder of being thankful can possibly take the edge off a frustrating day. “I know you are frustrated you got thrown out at first, but thanks be to God for your awesome speed as you ran hard to get there.” Or, “Math is tough, thankfully we have the ability to try to figure this out…or we have Grandpa to help.” That may seem a stretch, but maybe because we are not used to offering thanks in all things.
And maybe for an older child, a teen…”I know your friends disappointed you and I’m sorry. Let’s be thankful God will never disappoint you. You may not understand what’s going on right now, but God does and He wants the best for you.” These gratitude pep talks may sound unusual at first, but eventually they will become habit and much better than some empty words like, “You’ll find better friends someday,” or “These friends don’t know what they are missing.” Those are truths, but put them in the context of why they are the truth; because God the Father loves us individually and wants the best for us.
Along with learning to be thankful spur of the moment throughout the day, begin the habit of keeping a gratitude journal and have your children do the same. Again, this is a practice we were so good at and then too many interruptions got in the way. I saw the fruit it bore and we will pick this habit back up soon. The littlest ones may not understand the concept at first, but soon they catch on and begin the daily repetition of: momma, daddy, doggy, swing set…
Try to keep yourself in a grateful state and it will make teaching your children a much easier task; you will have already been teaching them by your actions. I just completed 30 Days of Thanksgiving and it proved to be, as I knew it would, a much needed daily reminder of all the things I have to be thankful for.