Caucasian mother and daughter sitting on blue couch, with their arms around each other.

Giving Thanks: How To Practice Gratitude as a Family

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, we can practically smell it already! But this time of year is about more than sweet treats and mashed potatoes. It is about coming together to acknowledge all of life’s gifts as a conscious and grateful family. So, whether or not this is a holiday you are accustomed to celebrating, it is nonetheless the perfect time of year to reconnect with your kids by showing them how to practice gratitude. As you plan your holiday spread, keep in mind these ways to incorporate appreciation year round.

Pen to Paper

Similar to other grounding exercises like meditation or yoga, starting a gratitude journal is a wonderful way to calm, focus and center ourselves. A gratitude journal is simply a list of reflections of everything good that happened to us throughout the day. Encourage your family to start their own journals, where they can document all the wonderful happenings they experienced throughout the day. It’ll not only foster your family’s sense of gratitude, it’ll bring you closer, too. 

Neat Notes

Looking for the gift that keeps on giving? Write kind messages that you can find later. Whether you send yourself (or your teen) a sweet text about how fabulous that outfit was today or leave a sticky note on mirrors to remind someone you love them, note-based gratitude practices can be huge for keeping positivity in mind. Do not hesitate to use thoughtful messages to offer yourself a little self love. Be loud and proud about this activity and hope others find them and copy your example. Pass on the appreciation by inviting your children to take part. 

Share & Care

If you’re trying to teach gratitude to your kids, lead by example. Do not forget to thank the people in your life that make a difference but might not know it. Maybe it’s a clerk at the local ice cream shop who always serves you with a smile. Maybe it is the bus driver who offers a wave each day. Maybe it is grandma who is always there for a little encouragement. Anyone who helps you deserves appreciation. Let them know you are thankful for the things they have done for you or simply their positive presence in your life. This will not only brighten their day but yours too. Set an example by being thoughtful to these people in front of your teen and encourage them to do so too. 

Giving Grace

No matter how hard we try to stay positive, sometimes we must all confront our shortcomings. We may have made an embarrassing mistake or said the wrong thing, and we end up torturing ourselves in shame. In these moments, we must remember to practice gratitude on ourselves. Taking the time to thank ourselves and focus on all the positive attributes we do possess, is key towards getting over these challenges. 

Meal Mindfulness

One thing we must do each and every day is eat. So why not get excited about meals? If food is something you love, take a little time before each meal to get grateful. Think about how hard it was to make that food exist and have to travel all the way to your plate. Was it from your garden? Or the grocery store? Look at each item with awe. Then, cook or bake something with intention, effort, care, and love in mind. Make it a group activity by asking your teen to participate. When you are done, offer your culinary masterpiece to those who have fed you to show gratitude for the times they have shown care. When possible, offer food to those in need. 

Sweet Dreams

After a long day, there is nothing more relaxing than a winding down activity. Bring on the serenity by including a gratitude based mindfulness exercise into your routine. Before bed, write down a few things you are grateful for. Keep going until you feel a noticeable sense of relief. Allow yourself to take this time to relax and encourage a more positive, restful sleep. You might just find that you dream more peacefully and wake up feeling more refreshed. So, instead of counting sheep, try counting your blessings instead! 

Naturally Nice

There is nothing more beautiful than the nature just outside our windows. Regardless, we often forget to go out and appreciate it. Next time you have a moment, consider going for a walk instead of turning on the tube. Invite your teen to come with you to observe and enjoy. For something right in your backyard, begin gardening. You can start small with flowers or herbs. Got a green thumb? Go big with berry bushes or fruit trees. Make it a daily gratitude practice to reconnect with the way the world works by watching it happen. Each day as you look at what you have cultivated in the garden and within yourself, you can be reminded of your progress and grateful of your abilities to take care of the things most important to you in life. 

In Case of Emergency…

There will be times when you feel particularly down, vulnerable, and sensitive. In these moments, we always rely on the ‘5-4-3-2-1 Technique’. Simply find someplace quiet and list the following to yourself: 

  • 5 things you are grateful for
  • 4 things you are looking forward to
  • 3 things you have accomplished 
  • 2 people you are grateful to have in your life
  • 1 amazing thing that happened lately

Follow this technique, and you’ll feel better, stronger and more connected to yourself in no time. 

At Tilly’s Life Center, our mission is to support you (and your grateful family) in the pursuit of raising teens to be happy, kind, and well-adjusted individuals. With the holidays almost here, take the time to incorporate thanks into your home and teach your teen how to practice gratitude in their daily lives. To offer your teen guided workshops for mental and emotional health and wellness, visit