I often start this monthly column with a true story about my experiences as a parent. Writing about my own parenting challenges is like giving myself free therapy. I relive memories of difficult situations, work through my emotions in a safe environment (my office, with a lot of coffee), find the humor in nearly every parenting struggle I’ve ever faced, then end up feeling proud that I’ve managed to figure things out and have ended up with two amazing kids. Now that’s something to be thankful for.
This monthly column provides tips for anyone who is helping raise children, based on the world-renowned Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, available to families in Santa Cruz County. If you have a question or idea for a future column, email me at [email protected].
I know this isn’t your typical parenting question, but can you share some ideas for being thankful and staying positive? I get upset every time I read or hear the news these days and become very worried about the kind of world my kids are growing up in. My partner tells me to focus on the positive and be thankful for what we have, but that’s hard for me to do. I could use some ideas. Thanks.
I completely understand feeling disheartened by the constant negativity in the news. It’s perfectly natural to worry about the state of the world and feel concerned for your kids’ future. This is a perfect time of year to remind ourselves of the things we’re thankful for. Researchers have found that people who are thankful tend to feel happier, be healthier, be able to handle challenging situations, and build strong relationships. The good news is we don’t have to wait for big celebrations or material gifts to practice being thankful. Here are some ideas to try:
Limit your social media/news time each day. Unplugging from social media and/or the news can give your mind a reset. Use the reset time for activities that make you feel more peaceful and positive, like spending quality time with your family. Go for a walk together and take turns sharing things you’re grateful for in your surroundings. Being present, away from technology and focusing on gratitude, can improve your mindset. And when you do check the news, scan the headlines rather than delving into opinion pieces that can raise your anxiety.
Build a list of the things you’re thankful for. Write down the things you’re thankful for each day. As the list grows, it can serve as a reminder of positive aspects of your life, countering negative emotions triggered by stressful events.
Thank your partner for the things they do. It’s common for parents to get so busy with work, kids and housework, that they forget to notice each other. Express appreciation to your partner for their efforts, whether it’s preparing a meal or handling a child’s tantrum. This simple “thank you” can make your partner more likely to notice and appreciate your efforts. Extend this practice to friends and family to brighten their day with a small gesture by showing you appreciate them.
Set a good example for your children. Children learn how to get along, cooperate and problem-solve with others by observing and imitating people around them. Let your children hear you thanking your partner and others. When your children do something kind or helpful, say “Thank you,” and tell them what you are thanking them for. This is a form of giving descriptive praise, which is a Triple P parenting strategy that encourages children to do more of the positive behavior.
Final Thoughts: Take time to pause and reflect on the things that are going well and make you feel content. When we make thankfulness a daily habit, it can improve our own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. And being thankful is usually contagious—like smiling and yawning. The more we give thanks, the more others will, too. That’s an idea worth spreading.
Nicole Young is the mother of two young adults, who also manages Santa Cruz County’s Triple P – Positive Parenting Program. Triple P is made available locally by First 5 Santa Cruz County, the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, and the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department. To find a Triple P parenting class or practitioner, visit triplep.first5scc.org, facebook.com/triplepscc or contact First 5 Santa Cruz County at 465.2217 or [email protected].