This week only! Save 25% on a PLUS membership with code: FRIDAY

4 Ways Parents Can Teach Thankfulness Amid Challenging Family Situations

When we model a thankful heart in front of our children, they begin to see it as an opportunity to thank God for the simply sweet things in life too.

Contributing Writer
Published Nov 08, 2023
4 Ways Parents Can Teach Thankfulness Amid Challenging Family Situations

This life is full of ups and downs, and sometimes it can be downright brutal and messy. While we do our best to teach our children to be thankful in each and every situation, I will honestly say that I am not always a shining example of that. Sigh.

With Thanksgiving literally right around the corner, I strive to make our home a place that welcomes a thankful heart.

We have a gratitude board, we talk about it, and we have even written why we are thankful on pumpkins, but it sometimes seems superficial or just another thing that causes us to “go through the motions.”

Having two teenagers that rarely talk to us doesn’t help either. Let’s just say it makes it rather challenging to discuss why we are thankful when given the all too familiar “side-eye” or the look that says, Mom, you are being so cringy. Is that still a thing?

Anyway, all that to say we’ve also had some rather bumpy years where we are coasting on fumes into the holidays.

Unfortunately, this marks the second year without my mom and while it already seems a bit easier, we have had a very rough year with our oldest daughter. I won’t get into all the details with that, but this momma is so tired.

Maybe you understand and feel the heavy weight of your own family situation. Which brings into question: how do we teach thankfulness to our children and still keep it alive and well within our own hearts this Thanksgiving?

Well, I am obviously no expert in this matter, and I’m still learning how to navigate being grateful in the midst of trying family situations, but I can say this — we don’t have to get it right.

Sometimes we are wading through a season just to keep our head above water and survive, and that is okay.

The beautiful thing about our God is that He meets us exactly where we are. And, that right there is where we must start.

Let’s posture our hearts to give thanks to a God who is always with us (Isaiah 41:10) and set a beautiful example for our children to follow suit. Need some simple and tangible ways to do that, then read on!

1. Etch His Word in Your Heart

Proverbs 3:3 is one of my favorite Bible verses as it tells us to never let love and faithfulness leave us, to bind it around our necks, and write it on our hearts.

What a beautiful reminder. The truth is when we visibly see The Word of God, it reveals His faithfulness and never-ending promises.

Here are a few verses to lean on:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world”(John 16:33).

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4).

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!(Philippians 4:4).

Write a few of these verses down (or other verses that speak to you) and discuss them as a family. If you need direction, start by asking these three questions:

  • What does this verse tell us about the character of God?
  • What does this verse tell us about us, His followers?
  • How can we apply this verse in our daily lives?

2. Keep it Simple

Oftentimes we find ourselves in such a difficult season, striving to just put one foot in front of the other that all we can do is take it day at a time and keep things super simple.

This is when we can truly take notice of all the precious little blessings, we easily take for granted.

When life brings us to a place that keeps us on our knees, it’s then that we see the things we deem as so important become a little less valuable. We begin to shift our perspective and outlook on life. What is God revealing to you right now?

Philippians 4:4 tells us that God supplies us with every one of our needs. Start there today and take notice of all the little things (that really are not so little) and give Him thanks and praise.

When we model a thankful heart in front of our children, they begin to see it as an opportunity to thank God for the simply sweet things in life too.

3. Extend Grace and Forgiveness

Search within your heart and find that wound or scar that may be buried deep. Maybe it is right there on the surface. As we head into a season that calls for us to be full of gratitude, it can be oh-so-hard to do when we are holding on to past hurts or pain.

Think of that family member or friend that has been difficult to love, or the co-worker that has brought about so much friction. Maybe it is a situation that has just caused you to harness bitterness or hold on to grief and sorrow. Friend, I invite you to let it go. Hand it all over to God.

When we give those burdens to our Father, even if it has to become a daily submission and surrender, something beautiful emerges — a heart that is able to give and receive gratitude.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding (Ephesians 1:7-8).

Ponder on that verse for a bit and let God wash away your hurt and replace it with His mercy and grace. This beautiful exchange of surrender and grace can be so freeing and such a great story to share with your children.

Let them see your struggle and how you fight it by bringing it to a loving and forgiving Father.

4. Serve and Love Others

Showing compassion towards others can quite possibly be the best way to relinquish any worry, hangups, or difficult situations that we are facing.

It essentially gets us outside of ourselves by placing our sights, thoughts, and hearts on someone else’s needs, producing a purposeful and meaningful moment that bends our hearts to be thankful.

Whether a friend is in need of a meal after surgery or a neighbor appears to be lonely and just needs a friend to talk to, we can take notice and seek God to help us serve them.

If need be, ask God to reveal those in need and meet them with sincerity, kindness, and a servant's heart.

Last year, my family helped pass out food at a local food bank. I must say it was a humbling experience and gave me eyes to see that so many are lost and truly need the love of Jesus.

As believers, we have been commanded to spread the Good News! And, we have the unique opportunity to serve within our communities and share that love with them!

Prayer for You

Father God, thank you for the richness of Your unfailing love and promise to always be with us. I ask that You be present and place Your mighty and loving hand on the family that is wading through some murky waters this Thanksgiving.

Draw near as they let go and hand over their situation to You. Give them sweet and tender places to feel Your presence and receive Your mercy and grace, so, in turn, they can extend the thanks and praise You so greatly deserve. We love you, Father. Amen.

For further reading:

7 Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving When Your Family Lives Far Away

7 Inspiring Bible Characters Who Teach Us about Thankfulness

4 Ways to Make Gratitude and Thankfulness a Daily Practice

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/skynesher

Alicia SearlAlicia Searl is a devotional author, blogger, and speaker that is passionate about pouring out her heart and pointing ladies of all ages back to Jesus. She has an education background and master’s in literacy.  Her favorite people call her Mom, which is why much of her time is spent cheering them on at a softball game or dance class. She is married to her heartthrob (a tall, spiky-haired blond) who can whip up a mean latte. She sips that goodness while writing her heart on a page while her puppy licks her feet. Visit her website at and connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

LISTEN to Our Thanksgiving Podcasts from LifeAudio

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of Salem Web Network and Salem Media Group.

WATCH: Daily Prayers of Thanksgiving


Christianity / Life / Holidays / 4 Ways Parents Can Teach Thankfulness Amid Challenging Family Situations