After begging for months, your child no longer wishes to attend the expensive gymnastics classes you sacrificed your Sunday mornings for. Slumped in her chair, she glares unblinking at the table because the pizza upon it did not originate from her restaurant of choice. She refuses to wear the new black Uggs she’d previously been pining for, because her friend at school has pink ones. With bows.
And like a slowed-down movie clip you hear yourself asking the eternal parent-to-child question: “Do you realize how lucky you are?!!”
The short answer (which in a perfect world would be delivered sans eye-rolling) is “No.” Of course she doesn’t. Hopefully, her limited life experience has not included walking 3 miles in the snow to school every day in beat up sneakers, or being forced to sit at the table for hours until she managed to choke down her cold brussels sprouts. Everything she’s ever done has been scheduled for her by somebody else (which, let’s face it, isn’t always fun, even if the scheduled activity is expected to be). She has very little control over or responsibility for her present situation, and almost zero perspective. So aside from asking rhetorical questions or haranguing her with tales of our own pre-internet, landline limited childhoods, how can we hope to help our kids see how good they’ve got it? And secondly, why should we?
According to quite a bit of research in recent years, cultivating a sense of gratitude in our everyday lives can have a significant impact on our overall happiness. Every day of the year holds opportunities to reflect on the many things we can be thankful for in our lives; however, as the name suggests, the Thanksgiving holiday provides a veritable bonanza of these opportunities. Like any lasting practice or habit, cultivating gratitude on a regular basis is the best way for it to really take hold in our minds, but Thanksgiving is the perfect moment to introduce these ideas, start the process, or check in with what we’ve already been doing. Here are some ideas for cultivating gratitude with our kids, our families, and ourselves this Thanksgiving holiday.
Talk about the food.
Where did the food on the table come from? Who prepared it, and how? Discuss each family member’s favorite dish and why. When we immerse ourselves in our experience, and really look at why we like what we like and what it takes for us to get to enjoy those things, feeling thankful naturally follows. Letting our kids participate in cooking the Thanksgiving meal can also be fun – find some kid-friendly Thanksgiving recipes here.
Talk about why we celebrate Thanksgiving.
Ok, this is a sticky topic no doubt, and the truth about this time in our country’s history is anything but pretty. Also, upon doing research for this blog post I discovered (and this may be true for you as well) that while I thought I knew how Thanksgiving came to be celebrated, I was missing a fair number of details. Perhaps for these reasons it’s even more worthy of discussion. For some guidance and ideas for broaching the topic without glossing over reality or traumatizing the children, give this article a gander. In addition to the history of the holiday, there is also the meaning it holds for each one of us, which in the end has more to do with why we continue to celebrate this tradition than the historical event that started it off.
Talk about what we are thankful for.
Just reflecting on this and discussing it tends to make us more aware of all we have. Go around the table and take turns saying one thing each person is grateful for and why. Or brainstorm a family gratitude list. Since anything and everything counts no matter how big or small, this can be a lot of fun.
Involve kids in donation.
There are ample opportunities to donate food this time of year (all year round, actually). When bringing food donations to a local charity, take the kids along for the ride. They can learn about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and they get to be a part of it. With older kids, consider participating in some form of community service, like serving food at a soup kitchen, or sorting donated items at a food bank.
Have fun being together.
For many families, this is the only time of the year that all or most family members are in the same place at the same time. While this can be stressful, bringing some fun into the mix is never a bad idea. Depending on what your family likes to do, you can start a yearly tradition : a flag footbal game, an ugly sweater competition, or a pie-eating contest (you’re gonna do it anyway!)
To wrap this up, here’s a link to some fun Thanksgiving games, crafts, and activities to keep the kids entertained. Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!