Every year around Thanksgiving I share with my patients this special song titled, “Thanksgiving Prayer,” by the one and only Johnny Cash. It’s my go-to song during this time, not only because Johnny Cash recognizes simple yet magnificent beauty such as the rising sun, the falling rain, and the laughter of children, but because he profoundly acknowledges the gift that the other person is to him. While he is thankful for many things, he is most thankful for the fact that YOU exist. Now that’s a message everyone needs to hear and take to heart.

Now, maybe you have heard the phrase, “You can’t give what you don’t have.” Before I explain how to address gratefulness with your children, first identify where gratefulness is in your own heart. Are you folding baby clothes and washing dishes out of routine or out of love for the ones who will wear those clothes and eat off of those plates? It is very easy to let once treasured daily tasks become routine. This takes place when we cease listening to our heart and simply let our body take over- completing tasks mindlessly.

It can be easy to avoid our own feelings and emotions. Sorting through our emotional experiences can take time, and when you are so busy- forget it! However, your feelings don’t just go away- they get suppressed up until the point where your body begins experiencing what you won’t allow your mind to process. Therefore, I invite you to take a few moments of rest just to listen to the song recording below without any distractions. Sit down, close your eyes if you can, and listen closely…as if the song has a message just for you to hear. A message that you have been waiting for- that will finally allow you to start feeling again and find joy in the little moments knowing that you are loved through it all.

“Thanksgiving Prayer” by Johnny Cash

Did any particular song lyrics stand out to you? Let those words sink in and ask, “what does that mean for me me?” Reflect on the answer to that question based on the truth that you are loved and that your life is a gift. When you are confident in this truth, you can welcome every moment as a gift. In your children’s mess or success, you can see the gift. From this parental perspective, your children can experience greater freedom to grow and develop knowing that they don’t have to earn love. Since their loveableness is independent of any other factors or abilities, they can develop secure attachment to their parents who love them unconditionally. Parents who are aware that they are loved unconditionally can love unconditionally.

The first two activities below help children grow in a cognitive understanding of gratefulness and the final activity on the list gives the child the experience of being noticed and of being loved.

Here are three ideas for how to incorporate this song with your children:

  • Lyric Substitution: Provide your children with a printed copy of the song lyrics after removing several phrases. Have your children complete the phrases with what they are grateful for today. For example: “I’m grateful for _________________and____________________”
  • Song Discussion: The first line of the song is “We’ve come to the time in the season when family and friends gather near.” Ask your children, “what happens on Thanksgiving?” or “what do we do on Thanksgiving?” or “what did we do on Thanksgiving last time?” To place this question in the song, you can have your children complete the phrase, “We’ve come to the time in the season when ___________________”
  • Singing: Sit in a circle with your family and sing-along to the recording of this song. At the end of each verse Johnny Cash repeats, “I’m thanking the Lord He made you.” Instead of singing, “you,” you can sing the name of one of your family members. “I’m thanking the Lord He maaaaadde MOMMY!” “I’m thanking the Lord He maaaaade Daddy!” “I’m thanking the Lord He made ME!” “I’m thanking the Lord He maaaade Mari!” For your child’s assigned verse they can go sit or stand in the middle of the circle and listen to their name being sung!

I hope the above activities are helpful for you and your family!

Please, share this article with others who may need to be reminded during this season that they are loved and their life is a gift.