Recognize the importance of gratitude and appreciation as well as their influence on our well-being.
By Judith E. Lipson, M.A., LPC
Some people seem to be graced with optimism. Others focus on the “glass half-empty” and don’t understand the world of optimists. Adults and children alike tend to focus on life events that are disappointing or the ways that they believe they disappointed themselves or others.
In challenging and stressful times it is common to focus primarily on what is desired. We may want time to relax, a peaceful family, relationship harmony, a career/job change, improved health or any number of “wants”. Our kids are not immune. They experience stress over many of the same issues. It is important to help our children move from stress-filled lives and feelings of depression to calm and ease.
It is important to understand that when we cannot change our environment or the people around us, we CAN change our perception of these things, and thus change our emotional response. While this may not seem ideal, it can make an extremely challenging event or situation tolerable.
Here are some strategies to help your child (and you) accomplish this:
Limit news: When we are bombarded by negative news it is more difficult to stay positive. Limit the amount of news that your child watches or reads. It’s important to be informed, but it is not necessary to see or hear the same report over and over.
Gratitude journal: Keep a journal of things for which you are grateful. Encourage daily reflections. Some individuals are so depressed that they find it very difficult initially. Begin with seemingly small appreciations: “I appreciate the fact that I brushed my teeth today.” “It was good that I held the door today for the person with arms filled.” “It was terrific that I remembered to bring home my math book.” The more practice, the easier it becomes.
Mirror work: Start and end each day with a mini-conversation with self. “Good morning, what do I need to do today to support myself?” At night review the gratitude reflections, including appreciation for following through on the ways that you promised to support yourself. Fight the tendency to repeat the negative things that occurred, or were perceived to occur, that day.
Gratitude scrapbook or file: We all receive acknowledgements or accolades in some way for the things that we do well, but we tend to take them for granted and then forget. Encourage your child to keep the mementos. These might include thank you notes for a job well done, report card or assignment grades, awards, etc. Have your child keep them in a drawer, box or book so they can be looked at, and be reminded of the positives that s/he accomplished to bring balance to a “bad day”.
Volunteer: When you volunteer (gardening, civic organizations, hospital or shelters) or assist those who are medically or financially less fortunate, there are multiple effects. Many feel more positive while giving of themselves. It is also easier to appreciate the blessings that your child does have, and shift the focus away from the “lack of having”. Here are two comments recently made by adolescents after completing community service: “Participating in a service project makes me realize that it feels good to help others.” “Participating in a service project makes me realize that we are lucky to live the life that we are living!”
Share gratitude: Ask each participant at the holiday (or dinner) table to name things for which they are thankful. As the parent (caregiver), add your own twist and describe the qualities of each child that you admire and appreciate.
Focusing on the positive and successful aspects of life helps us to remember that there is abundance, minimizing the focus on lack. I hope that you and your family have the opportunity to focus on each person’s inner gifts and abundance.
Judy Lipson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and educational strategist in West Bloomfield. She helps clients of all ages who have learning difficulties; work or school related anxiety; ADHD; Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorders; and those who wish to Remember and Become Who You Really Are. Contact Judy at 248.568.8665 and firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit www. SpiralWisdom.net for more information.