Gratitude is… Being a gift to others
I have been practicing meditation with my kids and came across this gratitude meditation. I highly recommend it for elementary or middle school-aged kids! It isn’t super long and is a good model of easy, guided meditation.
I purposefully didn’t listen to the entire meditation until I was actually doing it with my kids. I wanted to experience it the way they experienced it. (Note: I don’t want to ruin it for you! So if you plan to do this meditation – stop reading here and come back!!)
If you don’t plan to do the meditation, I will give you the synopsis. Essentially, the speaker walks you through a visualization of a tree. And on this little tree are a bunch of little pieces of paper that are filled with all of the things we are grateful for. (The visualization walks you through spending a couple of minutes writing things on those papers for your tree.) All of this is beautiful and wonderful. It was the next part that stopped me in my tracks.
The speaker challenged us to think about what it would be like to be on someone else’s gratitude tree. WOW. What a great thing to ponder! Not just to be grateful for what’s on our tree, but be so meaningful to someone else that they would put us on their tree. It opened this discussion with my kids that I didn’t anticipate, but am so thankful we had. So how do we help our kids show up on someone else’s tree (and WANT to be on someone else’s tree!)? I am sharing some of what my kids shared and what I have processed about this as well.
Show kindness that becomes a daymaker.
I teach a lot about kindness. I know almost all of us do, too. And this was one of the first things that both of my kids said during our discussion. But as we talked more, it wasn’t just kindness that had certain people on our trees, it was deep kindness. We determined that deep kindness came in one of two ways: continued, consistent kindness & generosity.
- Continued, consistent kindness – when people in our lives are continually and consistently kind, we have safety and predictability in the relationship. We develop a beautiful expectation that they will ALWAYS be kind – which deepens our love and connection with them. My kids said things like, “____ is on my tree because they always say something nice to me.” Or “_____ is on my tree because they always play with me.” When our kindness becomes always, we make someone’s day with our consistent sharing of kindness.
- Generosity – This pathway to our gratitude tree involves generosity that stuns us. Have you had that moment? Where someone does something so nice that you just stop and have that overwhelming feeling? This doesn’t necessarily mean lots of money, but it does mean lots of meaning. Be generous with your thoughtfulness, your listening skills, or your complimentary skills. Trust me, your kids will find all of those equally as important as being generous with money.
Foster relationships that matter.
To be a part of someone else’s gratitude tree, we have to be in relationship with them. They don’t necessarily have to be our best friends, though likely they may be, but we have to at least know them. So as you are helping your child know the value of their gratitude tree, and being on someone else’s tree, talking to them about relationships is a big part of that. With this, I also think about two things: friends and non-friends.
- Kids have a lot of “friends”, but may not necessarily know the true meaning of friendship. Most of our kids have friends by proximity. They are friends with people from their school – because they spend most of their waking moments with them. Or they are friends with people in their neighborhood, or kids on their soccer team. However, although they play with other kids who are proximal to them, fostering true friendship qualities early on is really important. So having discussions with our kids about why they like to spend time with certain people, “I notice you spend a lot of time with Steven. What is it about Steven that you like?” Or talking through ways we identify other friends who have similar interests or values to our family. “I noticed Steven was wearing a soccer shirt. He must like soccer, too.” These conversations can plant the seeds for modeling friendship-seeking later in life.
- Kids also have a lot of non-friends. Depending on your child’s age, non-friends may be kids in the classroom that they simply do not speak as much with daily. Non-friends may also be other kids in the classroom who pick on them or become “frenemies.” For our kids, non-friends are also an important topic for making words matter for good. Talking about the non-friends they don’t “see” gives us an opportunity to challenge our kids to meet “new” people. Challenge your child to play with someone new today. For the frenemies, it may require an open discussion about forgiveness and conflict management. Either way, realizing we can make it on to others’ gratitude trees through relationships is the key.
A couple of things to consider. Whose tree might YOU be on and how did you get there? And what ways can you implement these discussions this week?