Keeping the “thanks” in Thanksgiving can be the most beautiful part of the holiday, sweeter than fruit pie and more filling than an entire feast. After all, a wise but anonymous person once said, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough.”
What better way to guide kids into the busy and glittering season of “I want” than focusing on gratitude for what they have? Besides making us better people, a grateful heart also reaps rewards. A post to Teens Health from Nemours, simply titled, “Gratitude,” includes a “Why Gratitude Matters” section. One of the benefits it suggests is that “gratitude helps us build better relationships.” It goes on to say, “When we feel and express heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to people in our lives, it creates loving bonds, builds trust, and helps you feel closer.”
Another big bonus is that “gratitude can lead to positive actions.” The same article notes, “When we feel grateful for someone’s kindness toward us, we may be more likely to do a kindness in return.” The piece adds that “Your gratitude also can have a positive effect on someone else’s actions. Thanking people can make it more likely they’ll do a kindness again.”
A really sweet idea for gathering and sharing what family members are grateful for comes from last month’s “40 Fun Thanksgiving Activities for Kids to Try This Turkey Day” in Country Living, compiled from many sources by Rebekah Lowin. In the description of a Gratitude Jar (from the Doodle Bug Blog), the article says, “Have little ones—or everyone!—share what they’re thankful for by placing this jar, strips of paper, and a few pens at the table.” It continues, “After dinner, wrap up your feast on a sweet note by having kiddos read the slips aloud while dessert is served.”
Two other crafty, creative ways to show and share gratitude come from posts to a “Thanksgiving Gratitude” thread on the Focus on the Family website. One is “Links of Thankfulness” posted by Kelsey Lasher.” She cuts out strips of paper in three different colors, explaining that “Each color corresponds to a different category of something the kids are grateful for. Red stands for a person, yellow is for a place, and orange is a thing.” She mixes the strips in the bowl and has the kids close their eyes and pick one. Based on the color they choose, “they say something they’re grateful for.” She writes it on the paper and keeps going until the bowl is empty and then they make a “gratitude chain” and display it during Thanksgiving, “as a reminder of our many blessings.”
Another idea in the same thread is a Gratitude Treasure Hunt. Linsey Driskill writes, “To encourage sibling appreciation, my daughters and I wrote clues on note cards, such as ‘You’ll find me where we scrub-a-dub-dub.’” Next the sisters brainstormed things they loved about their brother and wrote them underneath the clue, such as, ‘Bates is compassionate.” Their bro ran to the bathtub to “find the next clue—and the next compliment.”
Leading up to Thanksgiving or even on the holiday itself, Families can also serve together with a ministry or secular non-profit organization or help kids gather up and donate unused or outgrown toys. Plus, just doing fun stuff together can build memories and gratitude. Among those “40 Fun Thanksgiving Activities” from Country Living are a turkey-shaped Thanksgiving pinata (from Studio DIY) stuffed with confetti that does double-duty as a centerpiece until after dinner, gratitude bracelet-making (from Sugar and Charm), and “I’m So Grateful” coloring sheets (from Thirty Handmade Days). Or help them sharpen both vocabulary and visual discernment with Tom Turkey’s Word Search (also from Sugar and Charm).
Whether expressed by sharing fun or swapping compliments, one of the greatest, possibly most overlooked aspects of gratitude, is that according to Harvard Health Publishing, “Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier.”
How cool we get a whole holiday to “research” that theory!