Oprah Winfrey was a vocal advocate for gratitude journals.. a way of tracking all of our blessings and focusing on them, being mindful each day of the good in the day.
Quite possibly no one needs the habit more than children in care. They often have had so much loss in their lives, so much pain. They often think they deserve what has happened. I once told one of my gremlins that "everybody deserves a happy childhood," only to be contradicted very quickly and firmly with a "Not me. Other kids, but not me."
Learning to see the positive in their lives, to find things to celebrate, is a skill often harder to acquire than anything they study in school and a skill far more needed in life.
Try modeling it this Thanksgiving. Take a small blank book and a pen and act as secretary for them. Whether around the table or on a bed, or in a comfy chair...generate a list together of things to be thankful for... people, moments, events, small steps, big steps. Put the year at the top of the list. Then over the next month talk about that list. Bring it out now and then. Add to it when something good happens, be it a good day, or a good hour. Write it down to both make it real and to preserve it. On New Year's Eve turn to a new page and write 2012 at the top. Continue your list and touching base with each other.
With luck and determination, by next Thanksgiving your child will be far more able to participate. They will be beginning to absorb the idea of taking moments to celebrate success, the ability to recognize good things when they come.
Little by little, day by day they will learn a more positive view of life. A more balanced view of their own lives. They may never be "glass half full" people. But hopefully you can show them and lead them to see that their glasses are not empty, that their glasses can become fuller over time.
Gratitude can be a candle of light against the darkness of discouragement, despair, and isolation. Use this Thanksgiving to help them light the flame.
I am a lifelong educator, writer and author, a foster, bio, and adoptive parent, happy mom of five daughters, Grandma to six, Nana to four, and church and theater musician. Oh yes, and all-round optimistic, crazy lady.