Daily life as a parent offers its own share of challenges (to put it mildly), and today’s political climate has many of us nervous and uneasy as well, so where and how can we find some peace and happiness these days? The concept of gratitude may seem a frustrating waste of time when you’re feeling overwhelmed, but it can enrich your life and give you a sense of purpose.

This Valentine’s Day, contributor and founder of Portraits That Move, Susannah Ludwig, speaks to how we can celebrate this “Hallmark holiday” by rising to the challenge and finding our gratitude in times of frustration and stress.

This moment in time feels very confusing. We are in a stage of huge change in our country, and most of us are feeling uneasy or anxious. It is unsettling for us, and most certainly so for our children. In my work and in my home, we speak a great deal about gratitude and how important it is. It is often hard to feel gratitude during times like these. We may wonder, how can we be grateful if we are insecure? It is a real challenge. What I know for sure is that gratitude, even in small amounts, allows for a new path. It centers us, provides perspective and shifts our mood and the mood around us. Feeling and expressing gratitude does not have to be about the “big things” – gratitude can center on the small gifts of our daily life.

In my home, we try (and succeed most nights) to have a discussion of gratitude at our dinner table. I encourage my son to think about the small things by asking questions that speak to how simple, but often overlooked, things make him feel:

  • The warmth of his blanket?
  • The way the sky looks?
  • The drink he had with his dinner?
  • The laugh we had at breakfast?
  • The fact that he can walk, run and play?

Having these conversations is comforting to both of us. Our gratitude conversations focus us on the things that are positive, the things in our lives that make us feel secure and happy.

There is an opportunity, through these connections with our kids, to take gratitude one step further. We can add an element of contrast. We can share with our children stories of others who are struggling more than we are.

We can, in this way, open up the conversation to a bigger world and a chance to build empathy and initiative. When we recognize that we are grateful for what we have, we can talk together about what else we can do to help others and the world around us. Gratitude is a game-changer for us and for our kids. In this moment, in this time, I think it’s the most useful tool we have.

Brooklyn mom and Philadelphia native Susannah Ludwig is the founder and executive producer of Portraits that Move, a boutique company that creates professional documentary-quality videos for families, preserving memories and moments for all time. She is also the founder and executive producer of Portraits that Heal, which gives voice to children that suffer from illness and other challenges and the non-profits that serve them by creating documentary portrait videos that empower children to share their stories in their own words.  

Susannah produced the feature documentary ON MEDITATION, which was released via Netflix in December 2016. She produced KINGS POINT, which was nominated for an Academy Award and premiered on HBO in March 2013. She is also the co-founder/executive producer of Snapdragon Films, a commercial production company. Throughout her career, Susannah has made it a mission to tell and share unique stories, culminating in the celebration of the lives and stories of children and families through Portraits that Move.