Fostering Gratitude

place-setting-1058984_640Thanksgiving is a time of coming together with family, enjoying a traditional meal, and giving thanks together. But how can you encourage your children to think beyond the food to the meaning behind the celebration? Here are some suggestions to help encourage an “attitude of gratitude.”

Don’t wait until Thanksgiving dinner: Start talking about Thanksgiving’s meaning earlier in the week. Ask your children what they’re thankful for at breakfast before school or at the dinner table.

Remind them of the first Thanksgiving: Tell them the story of the pilgrims barely making it through those first tough years, or, better yet, let them tell you what they know about the story. Talk about a time when people couldn’t drive down the street and pick up the food you needed at your neighborhood grocery store and how hard it was to survive in the New World.

Create a thank-you tree: Put a branch in a pot or hang one on the wall. Have your children help you cut out leaves from paper in fall colors and have everyone in the family write down things they’re thankful for on each leaf. Tie the leaves to the branch for a festive reminder of why we celebrate Thanksgiving each year.

Set a good example: Be sure to tell your children all the things you’re thankful for, including them! Give them examples of the good things in their lives and yours. Explain that there are things to appreciate every day and it’s up to us to notice and be grateful for them.

Thanksgiving is a good opportunity to step back and take a look at all of the good things we have, but an attitude of gratitude serves us well all year round.

Think of Thank-you Notes

8388385_SAfter all the gifts are opened and admired, do you take the time to write thank-you notes to the givers? As a child, many of us were required to write thank-yous for any gift we received, and it was often a tortuous process. As adults, some of us have stayed in the habit, while others gave it up long ago.

No matter your age, thank-you notes are good manners and just a nice thing to do. Particularly for older people, this recognition of the time and expense they took to buy and send a gift can make their day. Everyone loves to get mail that isn’t a bill or advertisement, and a hand-written note is something special.

You can make writing thank-you notes easier and more fun for your whole family with a few simple tricks.

Give cards for thank-you notes to every family member as one of their holiday presents. These note cards can be small and match the personality and style of each person.

Make a list of each gift and who gave it for every person in your family. At the end of the present-opening extravaganza, everyone will have a record of who needs thank-you notes for which gift.

You can make these notes particularly special and memorable by taking a photo of every recipient holding up or wearing the gift and enclose it with the thank you. If you decide to email your thank-yous, which is getting more and more acceptable among younger adults, you can attach the photos to each email.

Write your notes as a family. If everyone received a present from Aunt Joan, do a round-robin thank-you with everyone contributing a sentence or two. Even little ones can draw a picture or write a couple of words. This way you can also help each other come up with good ways to say thanks for each gift.

Gifts are special and givers deserve the appreciation that a thank-you note shows. Take the time to make the celebration special for those people who take the time to think of you.

Children and Thanksgiving

23849264_SThanksgiving is a family holiday and you can make sure everyone enjoys themselves by getting people involved.

Even small children can play a part when preparing for Thanksgiving. Start with simple tasks and build to more complex roles as your children get older and more able to contribute. Here are a few ideas.

Youngest children: Even a toddler can draw a Thanksgiving picture to put on the front door to welcome guests. Any crafts created in preschool or grade school can grace a table or buffet. Assign simple duties such as helping to set the table to make them feel a part of the day.

Grade-school children: How about assigning each child a side dish to help create? Go over the menu and ask which dish sounds like the most fun to make. You may want to pull in an adult who is not the primary chef in the house to help make the dish – giving them a chance to bond and contribute to the holiday. Children at this age could also be responsible for setting the table and creating a Thanksgiving centerpiece.

High school children: By this age, a teen can take over one or more dishes for the Thanksgiving table. You might want to have them help plan the menu – adding appetizers or a special dessert to go along with the pumpkin pie. If there will be younger children attending, ask your teenager to come up with activities to keep the small fry entertained and out of trouble before, during and after the meal.

Take the time when at the table to ask everyone what they are thankful for from the past year. You might want to discuss the topic in advance with younger children so that they have a chance to think about their answers.

Finally, involve the children in the clean-up. The more hands to help, the faster your whole family can relax and digest that incredible dinner!

Making Thanksgiving Memories

Would you like your Thanksgiving celebration to be more memorable this year? Here are just a few ideas to spark up the day.

Talk across the generations: For many people, as many as three or four generations of family members gather together. Take special advantage of this by planning some conversation starters that will get everyone involved.

Questions could include “What was your favorite Thanksgiving and why?” “What were the holidays like when you were a child?” or “What’s your favorite holiday food?” Add any other questions you think of and write them on pieces of paper or make a list. No matter the age range of your guests, the opportunity to share memories will contribute to a nice event.

Get everyone involved: If you have children, include them in the Thanksgiving preparations. Have every child take responsibility for one dish. Or if they’re too young for this, have them decorate the table with Thanksgiving-themed drawings or make name-plates or menus. Teach them the right way to set a table. Also ask Aunt Harriet to bring her famous potatoes, Uncle Bob to bring a nice bottle of wine or any other combination that works for you and your guests.

Remember the first Thanksgiving: Have your children research the first Thanksgiving feast and then tell about it at your own table. This gives them a chance to contribute to the discussion and reminds everyone of why we celebrate every year.

Say why you’re thankful: Before, during or after the meal, ask everyone to express what they are most thankful for this year. This is another reminder that the holiday is about more than food. And whether you have two or twenty at your Thanksgiving table, have a lovely memory-filled day.