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Gratitude as a Virtue and a Tool

As the holiday season begins to unfold, spirits and emotions are running high. While we hope that the highs we feel during this part of the year are delight and excitement, as parents

responsible for creating the magic of this season for our families we also can feel overwhelmed, anxious, distracted, and even depressed.

I recently attended a workshop hosted by Portland area women’s fitness and empowerment coach, Megan Caldwell, and she helped us reflect on the many ways we can set realistic expectations and put boundaries in place. (Interested? She has a virtual session on Nov. 30) She also gave us ways to care for ourselves when we notice overwhelm or distraction setting in during the holiday season, which got me thinking about what strategies I use to keep my head above water during this time.

One of my favorite ways to keep a negative moment from turning into a full-blown funk is backed by research: find gratitude. When you’re frustrated or overwhelmed and find yourself dwelling on negative thoughts, taking a moment to pause and reflect on something you are grateful for can be an effective way to find your way back to a positive mindset.

In a New York Times article about the science behind the many benefits of gratitude, psychologist Dr. Robert A. Emmons says “Gratitude heals, energizes and changes lives, It is the prism through which we view life in terms of gifts, givers, goodness and grace.” Though it’s truly one of the most powerful and accessible tools we have and we’re about to celebrate a whole holiday dedicated to it, it’s easy to lose sight of in our busy lives as parents. To help you (and me) keep gratitude top of mind, I’ll be posting micro moments of gratitude on my Instagram stories all month - I hope you’ll follow along.

Choosing gratitude can radiate beyond just benefiting your own mental state - modeling gratitude is one mutually beneficial way to teach our kids how to show and feel grateful. Often during birthdays or holidays I find myself pushing an “attitude of gratitude” on my kids. As a hard working and loving parent, I never want my children to be perceived as ungrateful. Over the years I can see more clearly that sometimes my children are just not quite developed enough to perceive the works of others and show gratitude. It can be hard to understand in the moment, but as they (too quickly) get older, their capacity and skills for these emotions emerge, and it’s really beautiful to see genuine gratitude. I hope that by practicing gratitude in my day to day life, I model that value for them.

As a parent I ask for the kids to say “thank you” all the time! Sometimes, when my emotions get the better of me, I find myself telling them that I worked hard to make dinner, get this for them, plan a playdate, the list goes on – all in the hope that the concept of gratitude will click. Sound familiar? Luckily for all of us, parenting experts like Caley Kukla exist and provide amazing tools like the “script changes” below (click to expand if they're too small) that we can use when holiday expectations and realities don’t exactly align. I hope you find them as useful as I have. As an aside - Caley is an amazing resource, and definitely worth a follow on Instagram.


While we're on the subject of gratitude, I want to take a moment to thank you sincerely for being a part of Stay Little.

This business has brought me so much, but most importantly, it has connected me to you and your family.

I hope the strategies in this post help you bring some calm to the holiday season.

I know when I am practicing gratitude this season, I'll think of all of you.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us!

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