This was originally posted by the Marion & Polk Early Learning Hub here.

November is here and that means that holidays are approaching, food is eaten, gifts are given and there are lots of messages encouraging spending time with family and feeling thankful. However, this time of year can also bring up a lot of pain and sadness, as well as discomfort and bitterness that can make it hard to focus on the positive and the blessings that we have. Sometimes we just have a really hard time feeling that gratefulness and thankfulness it seems like everyone else is experiencing.

I think that part of this is sometimes we feel like we’re supposed to only focus on the good and ignore the more difficult or sad parts of our lives. This can feel inauthentic at best and dishonest at worst, leading us to view others with distrust or question their motives. Can I propose something different this holiday season? Something that we can (and I think) should use with our children more often as well? This November let’s share what we’re thankful for while also acknowledging things that are difficult or that we may be struggling with. Let’s validate and not run from our feelings of sadness and disappointment while also celebrating the things that make us happy.

I think all too often we are quick to run away from or hide the things that make us feel mad, sad, or upset. We try to pretend like it doesn’t really bother us; or stuff it down deep with the hopes that we forget about it. We try to put on a “brave face” and force a smile or change the subject. While this might help us avoid these issues for a brief moment, it can sometimes fester beneath the surface and blow up in an unexpected way later.

So I suggest that during this season of thankfulness we share what we are grateful and thankful for and that we also open our hearts to let others know about the things that are bothering us. If we do this with our children as well it shows them that all of the feelings and worries they have are normal and OK. It also shows them more healthy ways of expressing and dealing with those emotions and struggles so that it can be easier to enjoy the blessings and be thankful. So if you’re sitting around the dinner table and sharing your “most thankful’s” this November, don’t be afraid to be honest and share your “unthankful’s” as well. You may find that your family and friends will share theirs as well, and you may discover you’re thankful for people who can share and empathize with both the joys and the struggles in life. Here…I’ll start:

“I am not thankful for and frustrated with the fact that we are coming up on nearly two years of living with this virus and all of the sadness and negativity that goes along with it.”

“I’m extremely grateful for my family, and that through this time we have leaned on each other more and used all of this time together to grow stronger and show more love and care for each other.”

This is fatherhood…