The Thanksgiving season is upon us. It’s my personal favorite holiday, and I think it’s because it truly doesn’t feel like a commercialized one (maybe because with Christmas on it’s heels it CAN’T be!) and that’s a rarity! The whole point of it is to reflect about the blessings we have in life and spend time eating delicious foods with people we love, who wouldn’t love that?!
With birthdays and Christmas and other gift-getting-candy-consuming holidays there’s this pressure in our society to have more! to get more! To have the newest! To have the latest! And even if you teach otherwise in your home (which we try so hard to!), we are all still a part of the culture we live in and sadly the American message being bombarded around many holidays isn’t one of simplicity, togetherness, or gratefulness. Just check out a few commercials right now and I think you’ll clearly see that!
The holiday marketing campaigns work on adults too. The stress builds and I know I feel like I have to give the same lecture when my kids open presents, “Even if you don’t like it say THANK YOU. Even if you have one of these already say THANK YOU. People spent time and money looking for something they thought you’d like so JUST BE GRATEFUL KIDS….OR ELSE!” So how DO we raise grateful children when the culture is telling them what they have isn’t enough?
I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some ways our family tries to implement this and what better time to think about it than during this season of Thanksgiving!
Let your kids see YOU being grateful. Let them hear you express gratitude to their teacher, a friend, a family member, and especially them! When we tell our kids “Thank you for brushing teeth without me asking. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for having a good attitude when I know you aren’t feeling well. Thank you for playing a game with me” they feel seen, they feel loved, and they begin to understand the reciprocity of being grateful
Write Thank You Notes.
Some of you may call me old fashioned for this one, or it may just be a southern decorum I cannot let go of, but we write thank you notes in this family. I really do think it helps my kids remember after a holiday the people who loved them and thought of them. Even without a holiday you can write thank you notes or give small gifts to community helpers. Take donuts to your fire station, leave a treat for you mailman, bake some goodies for teachers and school staff and add a note telling them you are thankful for the service they provide!
Share Your Blessings.
Make it a habit as a family to tell each other what you are thankful for. We all think of November as the month to be thankful but make it a year round habit. Maybe every night at the dinner table share something you’re grateful for that day. Have a thankfulness tree on your or board where people can write down the ways they feel blessed. By having a year round attitude and sharing the things you are thankful for, your kids will begin to notice things in their own lives.
Use the talents and items you are blessed with to serve others. Serving doesn’t have to be a grandiose event. Taking donations to local shelters or crisis centers, making a dish for a new family in your neighborhood, sharing food with someone on the corner, or raking an elderly person’s yard are all ways for your children to see how the responsibility of being blessed, can overflow into helping others.
Kids are self centered by nature. By getting easily embarrassed or overly frustrated and saying “BE GRATEFUL….OR ELSE!” we aren’t really teaching them much. Remind yourself that they are still growing and developing their character traits, of course we can lovingly correct them, but demanding a thankful heart will most likely never produce one! Give them grace, practice some of the things above, and remember you are planting seeds of gratefulness in their hearts that will grow and bloom in time!
These are just some small ways to try to raise thankful kids throughout the year, not just at Thanksgiving. Hopefully by doing some of these things my kids will start to be thankful for what they DO have and not focus on what they don’t have. What are some ways you teach your kids to be thankful?