Q: Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Do you have any suggestions for emphasizing that it's more than just food, football, shopping and days off from school?
Jim: One of the key secrets to a happy life is gratitude. I'm not talking about brief moments (or days) here and there where we casually acknowledge the good things in life. It's actively living every day filled with gratitude.
Being grateful isn't just an emotion we feel -- it's a deliberate choice of perspective. Given the challenges we all face in life, we might have to search for reasons to be grateful. Maybe we're having trouble at work; we can still be thankful we have a job. Or maybe our child is making poor decisions. Amidst the disappointment, we can be grateful they're safe and healthy at that moment.
Gratitude isn't just thankfulness when everything is going right. After all, life is seldom like that. Instead, gratitude is understanding that we live in a broken world, yet choosing to be thankful anyway.
Doing that requires intentionally looking for the goodness around us. The smallest blessings can be the hardest to notice. But they're also the things that give our lives richness and meaning.
The Thanksgiving holiday is a great occasion to begin that practice. Many families go around the table and share what everyone is grateful for. In my household, we carry that tradition on throughout the year because we believe it's important to do. With kids, I'd strongly recommend emphasizing relational blessings over material possessions.
Life will always confront us with challenges. Those hardships can sometimes drain our gratitude. But making it a daily habit to pause and reflect helps us remember how much we have to be thankful for.
For more encouragement to make each day count, visit FocusOnTheFamily.com.
Q: My children struggle with handling their emotions. How do I help them learn to manage their feelings and develop healthy coping skills when difficult situations occur?
Dr. Danny Huerta, Vice President, Parenting & Youth: Emotions can be like untrained puppies. They need careful attention and training to become pleasant companions along the way.
At a young age, the part of the brain in charge of emotions -- the amygdala -- is fully formed. But the area that helps make sense of and manage those emotions develops at a much slower pace. As a result, your children are trying to communicate something they have not yet learned how to regulate.
Here are a few quick practical tips for helping your children manage their untamed emotions:
Teach Your Child to Be a Noticer. Your child can learn to notice how different emotions feel. You can start with "good or bad?" You can also describe emotions as connecting or disconnecting. Have your child notice and identify the emotional momentum inside their mind.
Teach Them to Become a Thought Detective. Children need to learn to think about their thinking. You can ask, "Tell me what thought is dancing with that emotion." Many times, their emotions make sense with what they see. Help your children develop healthy thought detective skills by presenting different ways of interpreting situations.
Develop an Emotions Vocabulary. An emotions vocabulary helps a child with communicating about how they are responding to what is happening around them. For example, an emotions chart can be instrumental in helping children come up with words for what's happening inside their mind as they try to navigate their world.
Like puppies, emotions take lots of patience, consistency, time and attention to be under control. To learn more about how to help your children manage their emotions, and explore our emotions and feelings charts, visit www.FocusOnParenting.com.
Jim Daly is a husband and father, an author, and president of Focus on the Family and host of the Focus on the Family radio program. Catch up with him at www.jimdalyblog.com or at www.facebook.com/DalyFocus.
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