Many people think Thanksgiving is on a certain day of the year. They are wrong — especially wrong if they have children.
We all need to be better about thanking people. This goes for adults as well as children. The best way to help children learn the importance of thanking people is for them to hear you thanking others. Make it a part of your daily routine. Thank your little one for putting his clothes in the laundry. Thank her for helping set the table. Thank him for helping his sister with a puzzle.
Talk with him about the importance of thanking people. Let him see you thank the clerk at the store for helping you. Even when you are on the phone he should be able to hear that you are letting people know that you appreciate what they have done for you. Even encouraging him to thank his teachers is well worth the time.
Certainly praise him when you hear him thanking people. Your praise and recognition of what he is doing is very important in underscoring the importance of his message.
Not only should we thank people, we also should be thankful. Life isn’t perfect but it is pretty good for most of us. It is for this reason that this holiday was begun. It wasn’t because times were easy; it was because they were overcoming the harder times.
I remember being impressed with someone who was ill. We were visiting him at the hospital to send him our good wishes. He talked about how grateful he was even with this serious illness because he had such a good life. He wasn’t depressed; he was grateful for the life he had. Looking for the best is a great way to be thankful.
Take the time to make Thanksgiving meaningful even for your family’s youngest member. Talk with him about what Thanksgiving is all about and why we celebrate it. Let him hear how much the Pilgrims had to overcome and what they were thankful for. Talk about the Native Americans and what was happening with them at this time. Keep it simple but let him know something about history. Talk about what they wore back then and maybe check out a book from the library or look it up on web and show your little one some pictures to help him really visualize the first Thanksgiving.
Help your child make a thankful list. Let him think about it and then tell you about it if he is too young to write. If he is older, let him make up his own list. No matter how the list originates, talk about it and let him know how pleased you are with the items he has listed. While he is doing his list, perhaps it would be helpful for you to do one of your own. Reflecting on our lives is well worth the time. Almost all the things we are trying to teach our children are lessons we need to include in our own lives.
Top off the day with something creative. He can make a hand turkey by tracing his own hand and then let him color it. Be sure to post this in a prominent location.
Make a habit of making every day Thanksgiving. Don’t skip a day. Practice thank you and being thankful each day. You shouldn’t even notice when Nov. 27 is here other than the delicious smell of turkey. Be sure to thank someone for making it.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and director of Parenting Matters Foundation, which publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. Reach Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 681-2250.