Fortunately/Unfortunately: A Thankfulness Game

When I was a second grade teacher, I stumbled upon a fun picture book called “Fortunately” by Remy Charlip.

The main character is taken on a wild adventure filled with fortune and misfortune. It goes something like this:

Fortunately, Ned was invited to a surprise party.
Unfortunately, the party was a thousand miles away.

Fortunately, a friend loaned Ned an airplane.
Unfortunately, the motor exploded.

Fortunately, there was a parachute in the airplane.
Unfortunately, there was a hole in the parachute.

It’s a cute story, but the deeper lesson is one that I carried with me. What deeper lesson, you ask? I’ll tell you: There is always something to be thankful for! In many ways this has become a mantra in my home and is something I seek to remind myself and my children of when we become frustrated, sad or disappointed.

Our “Fortunately/Unfortunately Game” is one that we play from time to time when we feel down as a way of helping us to remember to look for the blessings.

For example:

-If my glass gallon milk jar just shattered all over my counter top (true story), I might say, “Unfortunately, I just destroyed that glass jar which was super helpful at storing our milk. Fortunately, we are blessed with the resources to be able to buy another jar, and no one got hurt by the glass!”

-If my three year old just happens to pee all over his chair in the midst of his potty-training (true story), I might say, “Unfortunately, Quinten just made a huge mess of pee for me to clean up. Fortunately, he didn’t also poop!”

I find that I lead by example with this game. When my kids hear me express not only my true disappointment but also my effort to look for the good in a situation, they are more comfortable as I encourage them to do the same in those tender, teachable moments.

Since introducing this game to our kids a few years ago, they have shared their own version of “Fortunately/Unfortunately” with me, unprompted, on many occasions.
Two years ago, when our seven-year old son broke his arm, he declared between his sobs, “I’m really glad that in Heaven there is no pain!” Not too long after that, he acknowledged his disappointment when he said, “And it was my favorite arm, too!” (This made me smile.) After his initial shock, he was able to find a bright side in the situation when he said, “I am really glad I didn’t break either of my feet!”

More recently, my son shared his disappointment with the way his video game ended but reminded himself how fortunate it was that he even got to play. It blesses my heart each time I hear my children look for the good while struggling with a disappointment.

QUESTION: How have you taught your children to acknowledge their disappointment but focus on their blessings when they are faced with difficult situations?

CHALLENGE: The “Fortunately/Unfortunately Game” is a way of thinking that becomes habitual with enough practice. When you are faced with tough situations this week, whether you are with your family or alone, verbalize both your disappointment and your blessings.

Photos submitted by Heather Ledeboer

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