Family / Kids / Parenting

Teaching Thankful

I know, I know, you can’t teach somebody to be thankful. But so much of parenting is teaching by example, and you can certainly show how you are thankful.

This year is the first year that n will be really aware of what’s going on with Thanksgiving, and may have a chance of remembering. While I personally am a fan of appreciating what we do on the holidays year-round, and make a concerted effort to be thankful every day, I find myself pondering more this year than in years past what we can do to make it accessible to her.

How does one show a two year old how to be thankful?

And not only that, but how does one start laying the groundwork for explaining that so much of what we celebrate in this country is, perhaps, not necessarily something we should be proud of?


What are your Thanksgiving traditions? How do you help your kids understand the idea of being thankful?

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  1. When our kids were toddlers, they were so full of awe and wonder about the tiniest details of the world that they taught us a lot about what it is to be thankful. In many ways they still are like this, even though they’re six and eight years old now. Whenever we witness that awe in them, or feel it ourselves, we call attention to it: “I feel so grateful right now” or “Aren’t we so lucky . . . ” or “What is it like to feel so . . . ”

    As the kids got a little older, for Thanksgiving we started the tradition of writing “thankful” notes to our friends and family. We print out a little form that says “I am thankful for [insert name], because [fill in reason].” The kids seem to enjoy thinking of something unique for each person.

    What we’re challenged with now is the tide of materialism that seems to be overtaking especially our oldest son. He wants things, things, things. And once he has them, he NEVER wants to give them away. We try to remind him how lucky he is that he has what he has, and how important it is to share with others who don’t have what he has (the “giving” part of Thanksgiving). But it’s an ongoing challenge.

  2. That form thing seems like a great onramp. Kids are accustomed to the structure of that from early elementary school writing exercises, and it can replicate over (and over, and over) easily.

    I also like the idea of starting a discussion about what it means to demonstrate gratitude, as a next step after expressing it. As with so many parenting challenges, challenge #1 is walking the walk first, then talking the talk. All good. 🙂

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