Thanksgiving: a family holiday
From the traditional foods, to watching the Macy's parade and football games on TV, to the last slice of pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving is a time of fun and togetherness for the whole family. It is also a time to discuss the meaning of the holiday and...
From the traditional foods, to watching the Macy's parade and football games on TV, to the last slice of pumpkin pie, Thanksgiving is a time of fun and togetherness for the whole family. It is also a time to discuss the meaning of the holiday and to encourage thankfulness.
Make an effort this year to get the children involved in your Thanksgiving celebration. Let your kids and the children of your guests help prepare the meal and take charge of setting the table, simple food preparation, decorating or arranging appetizers on serving trays.
Assigning age appropriate tasks will help children feel included in the hustle and bustle of preparations for the family holiday. Remember that clean up is a task they can assist with also.
Here are a few ideas to include children in the holiday and to encourage thankfulness:
- Put children in charge of decorating
- Let the children pick fruit, nuts and other items to put inside a cornucopia basket for a seasonal centerpiece. Or challenge them to fill the basket or bowl with symbols of things they're thankful for.
- Let children be in charge of the table
- Let the kids decide who is sitting where and have them set the table. They'll enjoy their new responsibilities and its one less thing for you to worry about. Even if it's just your own family at your Thanksgiving table, place cards make a meal more special.
Start a New Family Tradition
Thanksgiving Day is the perfect time to put together a game of touch football, street hockey or sledding, weather permitting. Or, bring out the family board games or playing cards and get the whole family involved. Find a good family movie that's playing at the theater and go to a movie after dinner, or rent a movie.
If you have guests coming for Thanksgiving, offer a craft that children and adults can participate in together. Decorate picture frames and send them home with a group photo you've taken and printed on a photo printer. Or, make a small scrapbook or video message to send to a family member who can't be with you.
Give the Gift of Self
Encourage your family to use the holiday season as a time to participate in volunteer activities or help others less fortunate than yourself in your community. Look for community opportunities to teach your family the spirit of giving to others. Even if it is just an hour or two at a soup kitchen, it is important to teach your children to the value of volunteerism.
Thanksgiving is a good time to teach children the basics of acknowledging others and you will set the stage for the natural expression of thankfulness as they grow older.
Why not take time to express this around the dinner table when celebrating this holiday? Some parents are puzzled when their children are stumped at the holiday table to come up with what they are thankful for - or when their child simply mention frivolous things. Don't be alarmed, children tend to be mostly self-centered until they are seven or eight years old. Until then, it is hard for them to see things from another person's point of view. Even if they are too young to empathize with others, they can still learn the skill of acknowledging others.
Expressing thanks and appreciation to others for who they are and what they do can be an important part of a family tradition. Bring new life to your family traditions at Thanksgiving this year. It can be a holiday with more meaning for your entire family.
Kathleen Olson has spent her career focusing on parenting issues and believes that most issues we face in life go back to parenting. She is an Extension Educator in Family Relations for the University of Minnesota and has two children of her own.