Episode 62: Giving Thanks: A Family’s Guide to Gratitude

In this episode of The Family Couch, we talk with Michelle Dickie about how to show, acknowledge and express gratitude as parents.

We jump in and discuss how Dickie was inspired to write a gratitude journal for children.  She would talk with her kids each night about what they were grateful for and wanted to write down everything they were saying.  Dickie feels that as adults we get stuck on autopilot with our gratitude with no emotion behind it. With children, they mention beautiful small things, like an animal they see or getting a piece of gum from someone.  This broadened Dickie’s gratitute practice and inspired her to create a journal, Giving Thanks: A Children’s Guide to Daily Gratitude.

We discuss why we become more unable to be grateful for the little things as we get older.  Dickie feels it is related to a concept called “present-time consciousness” which is similar to mindfulness.  In her practice, she finds that most people are so busy. When we are busy, we go into autopilot mode and are not even paying attention to the little things because we are so focused on what we need to do.  Since kids are not worried about these things, they can appreciate the smaller things. Dickie feels that as adults, this is where the retraining comes in. We need to stop and become more present in the moment.  We have learned to get up from the computer while working and stretch or set a timer to make sure we are drinking water. Dickie feels that with our mental health it’s the same thing. We can get into the practice of stopping and being grateful for something in the present moment at the top of the hour.  Even in a poor situation, you can stop and think about one thing you are grateful for. This could turn the situation around.

Dickie provides that we need to build the new habit of gratitude.  It’s like any skill–you need practice. We may need to set an alarm.  Without doing this, the habit won’t be created. We also need to look at our obligations.  If you are unwilling to say “no” to things, then you are not going to be doing the things that really matter anymore.  We sometimes need to stop and look at what things we can take out of our schedule and transfer that time to practicing new habits.  If there is no emotion with this, it’s not the power of gratitude. Dickie feels that the magic is the emotion and feeling that goes with it.  Research shows that children who practice gratitude daily have better grades in school, better relationships with friends, a better immune system and more.  This is not because they are writing the same thing everyday–they are stopping and really thinking about it.

We change gears and discuss how we can find other ways to bring gratitude into our lives other than by using the terms, “I’m thankful,” or, “I’m grateful.”  Dickie feels that it comes down to mindfulness and being present, and giving thanks in the way that you give thanks.  Different personalities express themselves differently.  People want to be appreciated and love to hear that you’re thinking about them.  You can send a piece of mail or pick up the phone and call a grandparent. This will bring such happiness to their day.  If you look at elite athletes, this did not happen overnight. It is a practice over time. Dickie mentions that with her kids, on day one they did not want to do their gratitude practice every night.  It takes time. As you start to become the habit, you will live your live in gratitude. When you’re in this space, Dickie believes there is less stress and less mental health issues.

The parenting part of gratitude is very important, not just from the modeling perspective but also from realizing that people show things in different ways.  The kids see how you talk to others and show gratitude. When people show things in different ways, it’s good to acknowledge it. If someone cleans up the kitchen and you didn’t ask them, this could be a case of saying, “Hey, I noticed you cleaned up the kitchen–I appreciate it and this lets me know that you appreciated the dinner I made.”  Dickie feels that it needs to be fun and not attached to strings. When she wrote the journal, she made it so that you fill in the date. This way there are not blank pages in between and it’s fun to work to fill it in.

We change gears and discuss how families can reset and practice gratitude together.  Dickie believes it comes down to the parents. Many people have used her book as a family book to start off with.  They write down what the family is grateful for in the book. In Dickie’s book, there are questions to prompt. Once the family is doing it together, everyone can begin doing things on their own.  When the family is all doing it and part of it together, they see that sometimes things are big, sometimes they’re small, sometimes about a thing, or sometimes about a feeling. At the beginning, when you ask the question, they may not know what to say because they are not trained.

Sometimes you may not be feeling particularly grateful or like life is going the way you want or with children they may have had a bad day at school or be going through a difficult time.  Dickie provides that sometimes her own children do not know the answer to the questions she may be asking. She says it’s okay not to know. You just need to take time to reflect and walk through the day.  If your child is saying that they don’t know day after day, it’s a red flag. You would want to start investigating what is going on at school. This would be a clue that there is something major steering their thought process.  This is a great way for parents to get connected with their child. When you walk through the day, you can help point out things to be grateful for. Dickie mentions a study that when cell phones became available to the masses, depressions, suicide and anxiety became on the rise with kids.  It also showed that dating dropped significantly. Dickie wants her children to be connected and with a partner that can provide support. If you do something silly at school and it goes on social media, it’s there forever. Back before cell phone and social media use, these pressures did not exist.  This is why Dickie is so passionate about connecting on a deeper level and gratitude. If we can start with our own connections and move toward gratitude for the little things, this will make a conscious shift globally.



Michelle Dickie is a chiropractor in Ontario, Canada.  She is also a speaker, CEO of The Connected Family, a wellness coach, and creator of the Kids Giving Thanks Movement.  She has learned that the mind, body and spirit have to be worked on and connected in order for us to live into a model of wellness.  She started practicing gratitude as a result of this, and ultimately created a journal, Giving Thanks: A Children’s Guide to Daily Gratitude.



BOOK: Giving Thanks: A Children’s Guide to Daily Gratitude on Amazon

WEBSITE: https://www.drmichelledickie.com/


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