Growing Up Grateful

Written by Janet Denison
Published on November 12, 2019

It’s only a couple of weeks until Thanksgiving, the holiday that is hidden now amongst the Christmas ads. How many “Black Friday” sales have there been on Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday, and maybe a Friday? 

I’ve always loved Thanksgiving as a family holiday, and I want to keep the day special. Gratitude is a powerful part of what it means to be a family who knows how to love and care for each other.

It’s not a Hallmark holiday 

Now, just in case you are picturing the Denison Thanksgiving table with a beautifully roasted turkey in the center, surrounded by bowls of steaming seasonal sides, set with china, crystal, and cloth napkins encircled with pumpkin and turkey napkin rings . . . let’s just say the Hallmark Movie Channel or Southern Living hasn’t asked to take any photos—and never will. 

We have four grandchildren, all of whom are six years and under. We have a Thanksgiving football schedule that must be considered—nope, honored

I’m not famous for my cooking. Infamous is a very real possibility. Let’s just say something will burn or be lukewarm by mealtime that Thursday. It’s our family tradition. 

At the same time, there will be gratitude. 

I love the laughter, the conversations, the trips back to the kitchen for seconds, the shouts during the football games, the happy cousins playing together, and the contentment of having everyone together—amidst the chaos. 

Thanksgiving is the best day of the year to remember why God created “family.” 

Moments of gratitude 

We don’t sit around the Thanksgiving table, holding hands and sharing all the reasons we are grateful. Maybe someday. Right now, we will all try to get our food and enjoy it while making sure none of the kids fall off a chair or spill their milk. 

But, there will be moments of gratitude. 

I will be looking for chances to give a hug and tell someone why I am glad they are here for Thanksgiving. 

I will look one of my grandkids in the eyes and tell them “thank you” for being kind to a cousin. 

I will look at my daughters-in-law and be grateful that they love my boys and love their kids and wanted to be part of our family. 

I will look at all the containers from Norma’s Café and once again be grateful that “Norma” is a much better Thanksgiving cook than I am. 

I will listen to my boys laugh and talk to each other, grateful that they are still the best of friends. 

There will be a Thanksgiving prayer before we eat. In fact, there will probably be several. My grandkids have learned to “lead” as only they can. I am so grateful that my kids are raising their kids to know how to pray and be grateful to God. 

Kids should grow up grateful 

Why is gratitude such a powerful “connect” in a family? 

All families have highs and lows. That’s normal. But, remembering why we are grateful for each of them is a rock to stand on in the tough times. 

Teaching our kids to express gratitude is crucial. It is one of the best ways to help them learn to think outside themselves. Kids are naturally self-centered, and gratitude refocuses their thoughts on others. 

How do kids learn gratitude? 

True gratitude isn’t just learning to say thank you, although that’s a great start. How can you help kids be grateful? 

Begin by showing them you are grateful for the kind things they do, the kind words they speak, the moments they put someone else first, and anything else you can find to praise. 

It’s fun to see how words of gratitude fill up a child’s face with joy. It’s fun to see your teens appear to shrug off words of gratitude because you know they actually felt your words. It’s joy to see your adult children teaching their children to be grateful. 

Start the holiday, today 

This article might seem two weeks early, but it isn’t. 

I spent a year of my life planning a large event. It took months of meetings and preparation for it to be a success. And it was a successful, important weekend. Doesn’t Thanksgiving deserve a little extra preparation time? 

It isn’t just about the food; it’s mostly about the family. 

What if we put in some extra planning time ahead of the holiday? What if, for the next two weeks, we plan to find different moments to express gratitude to our kids and ask them to do the same. Think of it as “training” for the big event. How will that Thursday celebration be different, richer, if we do? 

Our holiday will be “refined chaos” with preschoolers, but I am praying Colossians 3:15 over our Thanksgiving. Paul wrote, “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.” 

I want all of us to be joyfully thankful for every family moment of chaos, happiness, and quiet peace in our holiday. We are a family, and we have a lot to be grateful for. These grandkids will be tweens and teens one day, and we will miss the smiles the preschool chaos provides! 

Happy Thanksgiving—today 

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (1 Chronicles 16:34). 

I wish you many moments of thanksgiving, and I hope they begin today. We have so much to be grateful for in our lives. Let’s extend and emphasize this holiday, not allowing it to get lost in the Christmas ads. 

One of my grown sons recently told me that Thanksgiving was his favorite holiday. I wondered why. That is what prompted this article. 

After some thought, I realized it was my favorite holiday as well. For that, I “give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.” I have so much to be grateful for. 

We all do.

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Janet Denison

Janet Denison teaches others to live an authentic faith through her writing, speaking, and teaching ministry. She blogs weekly at and often at

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