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Gratitude for the Weary Parent: Sneaky Ways to Feel Thankful if it’s Hard This Year

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and along with it, heartwarming visions of families seated around a table, listening and smiling as each one takes a turn sharing gratitude for all the year’s blessings. Perhaps that’s a bit cinematic, but the holidays do tend to bring about some expectations of family togetherness, tradition, and celebration.

For some parents, though, it may take some herculean effort to conjure up an attitude of gratitude for the way life is going.

If you’ve been feeling like there’s no relief for the weary mind, here are some tips for tapping into a more positive mindset:

· Notice the small things If you have kids who have a hard time meeting your expectations, you may be so focused on where they are falling short that you’re missing the small victories. Maybe your child was able to return to school after an illness without a fuss (a difficult transition), or perhaps she remembered to put her dirty clothes where they belong once this week—an improvement over last week. Your child may not be hitting the mark the way she does in your dreams at night, but noticing where she is improving or gaining important strengths in skill areas is really crucial. Noticing out loud will help improve your relationship with her and give her motivation to keep working hard.

· Do the small things Sometimes when we’re in the trenches of parenting, it can start to feel extremely difficult to please or appease our kids. Power struggles abound, and we never get a chance to be the fun parent. Small things make a big difference to kids. Go for a walk with just one child—leave the others with that neighbor who always offers to help. Let him wear his Halloween costume when you go on errands, make a homemade card for him ‘just because,’ or decide to give him 10 the next time he asks for 5 more minutes of Minecraft. Turn up his favorite song in the car and surprise him by showing him you learned all the words.

Don’t wait until your child is following all the rules or doing everything you ask. Pepper in these light hearted moments where you can. You’ll feel better, and so will your child.

· Respond to the hand you’ve been dealt When things aren’t going well, it’s easy to think about what we should’ve done and how others should be acting or responding. The word should can start to feel like a heavy wet blanket.

Make a conscious effort to respond to what is, rather than what you think things should be…if you were better, more efficient, more effective, etc. Worrying and anxiety do not solve problems; but, assessing the situation and responding accordingly does. Realize that you’ll have feelings about what is going on, and that’s ok. But with the right strategies and support, it’s possible to respond rationally at the same time.

Make these simple strategies a permanent change this year and there’s a good chance you’ll have even more to share around next year’s dinner table.

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