Linda & Richard Eyre: Count your blessings one by one

Published: Sunday, Nov. 13 2011 3:00 p.m. MST

Parents can help children make a "thanks-giving list" to help children remember all the things they are grateful for during the Thanksgiving holiday.

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Now, on to the questions of the day: Have we de-emphasized the Thanksgiving holiday over the past few years? Does Thanksgiving deserve to be a major holiday? Are gratitude and thanks-giving closely connected to happiness? How important is Thanksgiving and its observance in your family?

What is your favorite holiday?

It's hard to beat Christmas, nothing celebrates a more important event than Easter, and I know a lot of children who would pick Halloween. But I like Thanksgiving best because it prompts the thoughts that connect most directly to joy.

A year or two after we were married, Linda and I decided that we would, just to be different and unique, send out Thanksgiving cards rather than Christmas cards.

We thought it would be a one year thing, but the simple little poem we mailed off to our family and friends drew a lot of comment and a lot of appreciation (and precipitated a lot more Christmas cards coming our way a month or so later). So we did it again the next Thanksgiving, and the next, and the next.

Though we didn't consider ourselves poets, thinking of thanks-giving each year seemed to cause us to feel more deeply and brought us as close as we have ever come ever to "waxing poetic." It also caused us to seek out beautiful and inspiring quotes from others about gratitude and about the association thanks-giving always seems to have with joy.

One quite wonderful thing about gratitude is that it does not dim with time. We enjoy reflecting on the sentiments and perspectives of past Thanksgivings, and it may have been the thing that has made Thanksgiving our favorite holiday of the whole year.

We have become convinced that there is direct correlation between the recognizing and expression of blessings and the amount of happiness in the soul.

Now, the next question is how do we get our kids to feel a real and special form of gratitude at Thanksgiving? We have just one suggestion, and it is the one that has worked for us over the years. And it can become a valued and binding family tradition:

While you are waiting for the turkey to cook or hanging out on the morning and early afternoon of Thanksgiving Day, make a "Thanks-Giving List."

Get a roll of paper (like the old cash register rolls) from an office supply or stationery store before the big day, and make a numbered list of everything anyone can think of that they feel grateful for (or it's easy to make your own roll of paper by cutting and pasting plain old copy paper).

Get the kids and everyone involved in shouting out their "thankful things" and have someone with good (and fast) handwriting jot them on the paper roll. See if you can get to 100, then go for 200, then for 300. The last year we had everyone together, we "set a new record" of more than 1,300 thankful things, including such standouts as "calls from my sister," "toenails," "doorknobs," "sunshine on a cold day" and "central heating" (from our daughter just returning from 18 months in cold, old England).

Make your list as long as you can. Drape it like crepe paper above your table while you have your Thanksgiving feast.

Any way you can get kids thinking about their blessings is time well spent.

The Eyres' three latest books are "The Entitlement Trap," "5 Spiritual Solutions" and "The Three Deceivers." Richard and Linda are New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com or www.valuesparenting.com.

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