18 March 2024 at 00:00:00 JST

When things go well, we often don’t think to tell God about it. And yet, thanksgiving is an important part of our personal prayer. Here are a few tips for parents, children, and everyone else that underline our annual motto “Prayer works!”


Gratitude is a way of life

Philosophers have been looking at gratitude since ancient times, because it helps to define how we live together, how we relate to each other, and how we feel about others and ourselves. Around two thousand years ago, the Greek philosopher Epictetus already knew that gratitude does not require a momentous occasion. He coined the phrase “It could have been worse” and defined happiness as being able to be happy and grateful for every misfortune that does not come our way.

It was only twenty years ago that psychologists discovered that gratitude can also help to boost our physical health and well-being and our emotional health. A number of studies have researched what an attitude of gratitude can bring about. The participants in one of the studies kept a gratitude journal. In a subsequent evaluation, the psychologists found that the participants were happier and more satisfied than before. Regularly reflecting on positive events and feelings had helped them to adopt a more optimistic outlook. They were also better able to achieve personal goals in terms of career, interpersonal relationships, and health. Even adults suffering from a neuromuscular disease managed to feel more optimistic and felt closer to others thanks to a 21-day gratitude rating. They also slept better and suffered less from depression than before.

The positive effects of a grateful attitude can also be observed in children. According to an American study from 2008, grateful children have a more positive outlook on school and their family than others. But children are not naturally grateful. This is something that has to be nurtured in an age-appropriate way.

Seven steps to gratitude

Saying thank you.Almost all parents teach their children to say “please” and “thank you”. To ensure that these words are not just phrases that children are expected to say, they need to understand why they are saying them. Parents should explain to their children why they should be grateful and for what. To help them understand this, they could, for example, make thank-you cards together with their children after a birthday party and record a video and send them to the hosts as a thank-you.

Talking about gratitude.Every day there are reasons to be grateful. At the end of the day, families can express their gratitude in prayer and thank God that they are healthy, that they can be together, that they experienced a happy moment, that someone said something nice to them, or that someone helped them in a situation. Another option is to keep a gratitude journal. This helps children and adults to reflect on their day, see what was positive, and realise how valuable the day was. And you can always ask yourself, “At what moments did I feel and experience God?”

Helping at home.When children are taught to help at home, they become aware of what others do and become grateful for the work done. This may involve household chores, gardening, or work in other areas. Children could maybe help prepare meals, tidy up, or feed the dog, for example. When children are asked to help, they feel valued because the parents trust them with these tasks. Appreciation leads to gratitude. Parents who volunteer or help their neighbours set a good example for their children.

Giving. By giving and making donations, children realise that others are not as well off as they are. Parents can choose clothes or toys together with their children and give them to children in need. Or they can make a monetary donation to victims of war or to a food programme, showing the children how important it is to give and how grateful they feel afterwards.

Creating awareness. For children who receive lots of presents and who have their every wish fulfilled it is often difficult to be grateful because presents no longer mean anything to them. In a conversation, parents can show their children how much effort the giver has put into the gift or how precious the time spent together on holiday is. Here too, parents or teachers can set an example for children by saying thank you when someone does something that makes them feel good.

Being optimistic. There are many reasons to be grateful today. It could be a ray of sunshine on a walk, the opportunity to attend a divine service, or experiencing angel protection in a critical situation.

Seeing the positive. Maybe the family has planned to go for a bike ride, but suddenly it starts to thunder and rain, so the outing has to be cancelled. The children are disappointed, but the father explains that the rain is absolutely necessary because the plants need it. He suggests going to the recreation centre for a swim instead. If you make the best of unpredictable events, you can find a reason to be grateful in almost any situation.

About the author: Natascha Wolf is a primary school teacher and principal. She teaches physical education, German, and maths. She is married and has three children. She is also a Sunday School teacher and conductor of the district choir in her church district in Rottweil, Germany.


nac.today: New Apostolic Church International

←Past articles in 2024

← Home