Teaching Our Children to be Thankful

November 1, 2012

Thanksgiving can be a hard sell for kids. Oftentimes the importance is overlooked because it’s sandwiched between the candy, costumes, and trick-or-treat of Halloween and the gifts, glitz, and glamour of Christmas.  For a lot of kids it’s all about eating turkey, watching football, a few days off school, a parade, and the start of the Christmas shopping season. Don’t get me wrong, these are all good things, but there is just so much more to the Thanksgiving holiday.

How do we teach our kids the real meaning of Thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is a wonderful chance to see family and friends. But it’s also the perfect opportunity to teach our children to be thankful for the gifts of life, love, joy, and more.

A good start is by making sure our children know the story of the first Thanksgiving. Find a book or video that tells the story of the Pilgrims, their voyage to America, the hard life they suffered in America, their friendships with the Wampanoag people, and how they set aside a day to be thankful for their blessings. There are plenty of children’s books and cartoons available to help you relay the story. My children are particularly fond of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.

Another good way is to establish traditions for recognizing what we are thankful for. Spend a moment every day in November recognizing, discussing and recording what you and your children are thankful for. Use a thankful tree, journal, shoebox, tablecloth, or calendar to journal. Reflect on those things the entire month of November, most especially on Thanksgiving day. Remind your children about the importance of being thankful for family, basic needs, friends, teachers/school, health, the smell of fresh flowers, warm pajamas, and ripe bananas. If they struggle trying to think of ideas, just remember that if it’s important to them, it’s worth mentioning.

Teaching charity is also important during Thanksgiving. Even young children can make a difference and learn the value of helping others by making donations. Children can help by gathering canned goods in the pantry for a food drive. Take your kids with you when you donate books, toys or clothes so they can see the process and recognize the appreciation.

By establishing Thanksgiving traditions, your goal should be to move the spirit of Thanksgiving from a one-day event to a basic life attitude. Setting a good example of making Thanksgiving a priority so your children continue to value its significance will impact how your children celebrate the holiday for the rest of their lives.