‘Tis the season! With it, the November buzzword ‘Gratitude’ is making its rounds again. But with all that’s been going on in our country, and our world, gratitude has taken on a whole new meaning. Many of us are especially grateful that our loved ones – especially our aging parents and relatives – are still with us.
Despite there being a pandemic, this time of year brings warmth, good food, and quality time with family, but it also provides the opportunity to express our gratitude to each other. Talking about our blessings with our family is beneficial for everyone, especially our elderly parents. For them, it is not only comforting, it is a great way to stimulate their memory and spark meaningful conversations.
General Benefits of Expressing Gratitude
The benefits of expressing gratitude are numerous, such as:
- Strengthened physical health
- Better sleep
- Improved psychological health
- Increased empathy
- Reduced resentment and anger
- Boosted memory and cognitive ability
- Better social interactions
- Enhanced self-esteem
Ways to Express Gratitude
Whether in person or during virtual calls, there are many ways to express gratitude with your parent. Here are some ideas for activities:
These activities can be done with your parent and any children you may have in the family as well:
- Jar – This jar-full of gratitude is a holiday favorite. Find a large jar or container and label it “Gratitude Jar” and decorate it as you wish. Keep a notepad and pen by the jar. Encourage everyone in the family to write down the things they are grateful for and place their notes in the jar. Gather and read aloud all the notes on Thanksgiving Day!
- Tree – Write what you’re thankful for on Autumn leaves and hang them on a gratitude tree. You will need construction paper in various fall colors, a leaf cutout template, string or yarn, scissors, twigs or tree branches, and a vase. Place the twigs or branches in a vase (you can use moss, rocks, or pebbles to anchor the twigs). Trace and cut out the leaves and punch a hole at the top. Loop a piece of thread or string through the hole and tie it. Place the leaves and a pen by the tree for the family to write on and hang on the branches.
- Walk – Just a walk in nature with your parent can be a wonderful occasion to express what we’re grateful for. Consider taking some quotes or poetry about gratitude to read together while you sit and take a break.
- Flower – Similar to the Gratitude Tree, a gratitude flower is made with colored petals. Start by cutting out a circle from colored paper. Yellow is a popular color to use for the center of the flower. On the circle, write “Things I’m Thankful For”. Cut out colored “petals” to have ready to write on and glue onto the center. The petals eventually form a flower.
If you have to be away from your loved ones and can’t visit them in person due to distance or Coronavirus, there are still things you can do to bridge the distance.
- Schedule a family video call – We are lucky to have technology that makes it possible for us to “see” our loved ones. Something to be grateful for! Plan your virtual visit by sending your loved one a gratitude quiz to answer or suggest keeping a journal or list of things your loved is grateful for. Or you can just use gratitude prompts to use during the conversation such as “I’m grateful for these three friends,” “I’m grateful for these three family members,” “I’m grateful for these three things in my environment,” etc.
- Send a Box – A gratitude box is a thoughtful way to share feelings. All you need is an attractive box, notepaper, and pen. Jot down heartfelt messages of gratitude. If you’re not sure how to start, here are some suggestions to begin your message: “Thank you for…” “What I love about you…” “My holiday wish for you…” You can also collect messages from family and drawings from children so your loved one receives multiple messages of gratitude and love. With the help of a caregiver, your parent could create and send a gratitude box as well!
- Send an email or e-card – Send a virtual gratitude greeting to your loved one. List specific ways your loved one has inspired you to feel grateful. There is no greater gift than to tell someone how they have made a difference in your life!. If your loved one would like to send you or someone else a gratitude email or e-card, a caregiver, neighbor, or local family member may provide assistance with this.
- Send a homemade gift basket – Gather up some favorite treats, gifts, and mementos from past holidays, along with some family pictures and gratitude notes. This is sure to inspire smiles and gratitude and love.