By: Jolene Roehlkepartain
As Thanksgiving draws near, parents always hope they can teach their kids to be thankful. The trick, however, is that being thankful is really a year-round effort. So, if you’ve been slacking in this department, aim to make Thanksgiving a kick-off point for practicing thankfulness as a family—all year long. Read more >
Try these tips, on and after the Thanksgiving holiday, to improve your family’s attitude of gratitude.
1. Give a thankful talk. On Thanksgiving, before you start the meal, have one adult stand up and name a number of things he or she is grateful for. Ideally, this is someone who who is comfortable (and enjoys) expressing him or herself, and is someone whom your kids look up to. A powerful speech often involves saying the first name of each person present at the table and then expressing why you are grateful for that person.
2. Create a thankful paper chain. If you have young children, this activity can be fun. (The adults might even join in too!)
For this activity you will need several sheets of different colored construction paper, scissors, markers, and a stapler. Get all the kids together and have them write or draw one thing they’re thankful for on one piece of 1-inch by 11-inch construction paper strip. Encourage them to write as many different things as they can think of on different colored strips of paper. Then loop and staple together the strips to create a chain. See how far it can stretch. Some families even hang the chain in their dining or family room.
Plan a simple, family service event. Nothing teaches people, both young and old, how to be grateful faster than helping others. The organization, Doing Good Together focuses on simple ways families can volunteer together.. The organization’s e-mail newsletter often includes simple family volunteer activities that families can try.
Make a grateful list. Get the family together and have an “I’m grateful for” brainstorming session. Try to list as many things you can think of that you’re grateful for. Creating a list often reminds us of how much we take for granted.
Play the “popcorn thanks” game. Go around the dinner table and focus on one person at a time. Have other people name the things they appreciate about this person. Make it a popcorn thanks where people spontaneously “pop out” what they have to say. There’s no limit to the amount of thanks one person can give. Players, beware! Things might get a bit rowdy when the young kids at the table begin to physically “pop up” each time they contribute! Some families also like to play the “one-word thanks” game, where each family member can only use one adjective to describe the featured person. Either way, these family games are a fun way to show love and gratitude for our family members.
Make it a family value to always write thank-you notes. Whenever you or your kids receive a gift, write a thank-you note. Some families keep a bunch of thank-you notes and stamps on hand to make it easier to do so. No one needs to write a lot, but people who give gifts treasure receiving a written thank-you note.
Spread the spirit of thanks this season by sending your friends, family, and colleagues a Thanksgiving e-card.
Send this photo as an e-card >
Read books about being thankful. Some of our family favorites include The Secret of Saying Thanks, by Douglas Wood; The Most Thankful Thing, by Lisa McCourt; 365 Thank Yous, by John Kralik, and 101 Ways to Say Thank You, by Kelly Browne.
Finally, be grateful in front of your kids. Your kids notice whether or not you have an attitude of gratitude. They learn most from the way you act and talk. So, be sincere when you’re thankful. Notice when others do good things for you, and tell them how much you appreciate it.
Tell Us:——> How does your family get into the spirit of Thanksgiving?
1. Linda and Richard Eyre, Teaching Your Children Values (New York: Fireside, 1993).
2. The Value of Caring, ParentFurther.
3. Jenny Friedman and Jolene Roehlkepartain, Doing Good Together: 101 Easy, Meaningful Service Projects for Families, Schools, and Communities (Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, 2010).