A Lesson in Gratitude

Let’s Read  Before You Sleep: A Bedtime Book of Gratitude by Annie Cronin Romano; Illustrated by Ioana Hobai

What is the most important thing that you do before you sleep? This beautiful picture book encourages your children to think about their blessings before bed, using their five senses as a guide. What did you hear, smell, taste, see, or feel that you are thankful for? This book lesson shares a way to pray in thankfulness with our children.

  Romano, Annie Cronin, and Ioana Hobai. Before You Sleep. Page Street Kids, 2018.

You can get this book at your local library, local independent bookstore, or

 

Let’s Think
For us:
Do you ever feel like your children complain a lot? In fact, do you sometimes feel like just about everyone around you is always complaining? It may be true! But a sure antidote to all that complaining is fostering gratitude. Being thankful to God for all our gifts has been a basic tenant of our faith since the very beginning – even in the stories of pre-history. What does Noah do when his ark finally bumps into dry land? He makes an offering to God to give thanks. That gratefulness continues; roughly 32 of the 150 psalms in the Bible give thanks to God. Jesus prayed in gratitude to God the Father often, most notably giving thanks for the bread and wine before the first Eucharist. And Saint Paul talks about it over and over again in his letters to the early Church.

Praying in thankfulness can be done at any time of day, but as Before You Sleep suggests, just before bed is an excellent time to reflect on our blessings.

Here are ten reasons to pray a prayer of thanksgiving with your children every day:

  1. To grow awareness of God’s presence in every moment of the day.
  2. To help us discover what our children like and don’t like and gain knowledge of who they are as individuals.
  3. Developing an attitude of gratitude nurtures physical, psychological, and emotional health.
  4. To practice listening to each other.
  5. Gratitude helps foster good relationships with others.
  6. To help children “come out” of themselves and see beyond their own wants and needs.
  7. To help develop humility.
  8. To help them be comfortable talking to God.
  9. Listening to them heightens our awareness of what is going on in their lives.
  10. Gratitude reduces materialistic attitudes.

This is a simple way to pray with children before bed:

  1. Begin with the Sign of the Cross.
  2. Ask each child to name something in their day that they are grateful for. It can be a big thing or a small thing. Some families call this sharing a “highlight” of the day.
  3. After each person (adults too!) shares something he/she is grateful for, all say, “Thank you, God, for your great goodness.”
    1. OPTIONAL: You could also ask each person to share a low-light of each day, something they wish had gone differently.
    2. OPTIONAL: Instead of the “low-light,” some families ask each person to think of something they are sorry for and ask God for forgiveness. It may be best not to have anyone say what they are sorry for out loud, but rather just “say it in your thoughts.”*
  4. Each person can then name someone they would like to pray for and tell why.
  5. Then pray the Our Father together. Saying/hearing this prayer each night is a great way for little ones to learn this prayer easily.
  6. End with the Sign of the Cross.

For our children:
Everything we have is a gift from God. Everything! It is important that we are thankful to God for all the wonderful we have each day, starting with just being alive. This book helps us think about all the wonderful things we see, hear, smell, taste, and feel every day and to be grateful for those things. It is good to say thank you to God in prayer many times a day. First thing in the morning, before meals, and before bed are great times to say a thank you prayer to God. Prayers of thankfulness can be short and in your own words. For example, “Thank you, God, for the sun shining in my window this morning,” is a great prayer.

Let’s Talk  

  1. Can you name one thing you are grateful for that you heard today? One thing you smelled? Tasted? Saw? Felt?
  2. We are grateful for so much! Who do all these good things really come from?
  3. What was the “high,” the best part of your day today? What was the low?
  4. In the Bible, Saint Paul said to “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19-20). Why do you think that makes life better?

Let’s Do
I Spy Thankfulness!
Materials: Just you and your child/ren

  1. This game can be played inside or outside, anywhere and whenever you like. In fact, playing often and in different environments will help develop the “gratitude muscles” of everyone in your family.
  2. Person 1 says, “I spy something red that I am thankful for.”
  3. Person 2 tries to guess what it is.
  4. When she guesses correctly, Person 1 tells why he is grateful for it.
  5. Then Person 2 becomes the “Spy.”
  6. You can also play using the other four senses. For example, “I smell something sweet that I am thankful for.” Or, “I hear something loud that I am thankful for.”

Let’s Pray 
Dear God,
Thank you for all the good things in my world.
Thank you for the people who love me.
Thank you for a body that moves and grows.
Thank you for eyes to see with.
Thank you for ears to hear with.
Thank you for a nose to smell with.
Thank you for a mouth to taste with.
Thank you for skin to feel with.
Thank you God, even for the things about me
that are not perfect.
I know you love each one of us just the way we are.
I love you too, God.
I will show you I love you
by saying, “Thank You,” often.
Amen.

Word Every Catholic Should Know 
thanksgiving – a type of prayer. When we pray in thanksgiving we lift our minds and hearts to God and express gratitude for all God’s gifts to us.

Scripture 
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Let’s Remember 
Play I Spy Thankfulness each day this week to get into the habit of gratitude.

Extras
*Reflecting on what we are grateful for and what we are sorry for are both parts of a beloved prayer of Catholics called the Daily Examen.  This type of prayer has a long history, starting with St. Ignatius. You can find out more about the Examen at https://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/

**Another great book about praying with your children at night is Before I Sleep I Say Thank You by Carol Gordon Ekster.
             Carol Gordon., and Mary Rojas. Before I Sleep I Say Thank You. Pauline Books & Media, 2015.
You can buy it here: https://store.pauline.org/english/books/before-i-sleep-i-say-thank-you#gsc.tab=0 

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