September 11: Time For Gratitude

On this day, September 11th,  it’s hard to not feel reflective.

I remember when I was about 4 years old. I was with my grandmother (an amazing little blond-haired woman that everyone—I mean everyone–called “Nanny”). We were in the front of the grocery store and a news crew was there. They stopped us and asked Nanny “where were you when Kennedy was assassinated?” My Nanny recalled where she was and what she was doing. That day comes to mind because I believe that I might be walking with my grandchild one day—and someone will stop me and ask where I was on September 11th 2001. It’s just one of those days that forever more, will be etched in the memories of millions of people.

Today, in honor of those who died, it seems the best thing to do is to show respect by being grateful for what we have and what others have done for us. We must teach our children everyday, and especially on days like today, that we are indeed fortunate in so many ways. We must be thankful. We must go out of our way to express gratitude. Today of all days, even if we feel a little awkward, it’s the time to make a point of showing appreciation for the blessings that have touched our lives.

How can we teach our children gratitude?

(1) Model it: When someone does something for you, expand on the typical thank-you. Allow your children to see that saying thank-you is accompanied with a smile, a thank-you card, or other sincere recognition of gratitude. The more they see it, the more they’ll do it.

(2) Make a Gratitude List: At the dinner table or before bed, ask your family why they are grateful. Write down the answers in a family gratitude journal or use it to help form a family bucket list. Not only is this a nice way to bring the discussion of gratitude to the forefront, it’ll be fun to look back over the years and see how the “objects of gratitude” have changed with age and maturity. Today, of all days, we can be grateful for our safety, for our troops, and for our loved ones.

(3) Role Play: Use stories to teach your children what to do when someone goes out of their way to help you. Ask how each person in the story must feel when they hear words of gratitude expressed. You can also tell stories in which the receiver does not thank the giver. How do you think that made the giver feel? What do you think might happen next time? Lastly, why not role play what your child would say if s/he met a soldier or a service worker who is helping to keep us safe while we go about our day?

(4) Point it out: Did Grandma come over for last minute baby-sitting? Did your neighbor Charlie come by to fix the sink at 9pm? Point out to your children how nice it was for a family member or friend to take time out of their day to help out the family. Today, point out how others are still showing gratitude for those who helped them on 9/11. You are passing on knowledge that things do not magically get fixed but rather, they take time, knowledge, and skill on the part of various people. Then show them how you follow up with a gesture of gratitude!

(5) Purge and Abstain: Sometimes, we have to teach our children to give items or time away to charity. Being the “giver” can be very fulfilling and can help a lot of people. Still, many people who lost mothers and fathers on 9/11 are in need. By the same token, “going without” something can also show children how grateful they are to have certain privileges and possessions. Going without TV or computer access for a week or walking rather than driving to an in-town destination can help children remember to be grateful for their blessings.

(6) Notice it: Be sure to reinforce your child’s gesture of gratitude when you see it. For example, if your child says, “Thanks for driving me to practice,” say “You’re welcome! I appreciate you saying that—it means a great deal to me” instead of “Of course I drove you” or “How else would you get here?”

(7) Talk about people who are less fortunate: Whether you’re pointing out that some families have less or your discussing those families who’ve had to deal with loss, you’re helping your children to understand how to count their blessings. In the face of 9/11, it’s vital that your children are taught (in an age-appropriate way) that others are feeling sad or suffering today because of what happened 7 years ago.

Hug your children today a little tighter. Let them know how much you appreciate them. On days like today, it’s so important to stop the daily grind to remember how truly lucky we really are.

Please share; Where were you when the tragedies of 9/11 happened? What are you grateful for today?

We appreciate all of you.

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3 Responses

  1. Gratitude: I believe I’m trying to instill it into my girls, but am I doing enough? Thanks for giving me this little reminder!

  2. Hello Vicki-

    The fact that you’re even asking the question and thinking about teaching gratitude to your girls puts you light years in front of others. Since children are “new on earth” we have to show them the way. That means modeling gratitude but also talking about it, showing them things to be grateful for, and having them give to others. When we don’t do this, they can simply assume that everyone has what they have– since what would show them otherwise?

    When we teach children to be grateful and show gratitude, they are both humbled and empowered…and that combination helps to create the best leaders.

    Dr. Robyn

  3. […] years ago, in the wake of September 11th, we remembered what Thanksgiving was really about—giving thanks for our family, our friends, and […]

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