Thanksgiving is approaching, and stores are already being saturated with Christmas music and decor. While the busyness of the holidays fast approaches, how can you as parents bring a spirit of thanksgiving to this season and take time to model thankfulness to your children? Consider these practical thoughts:
Recognize the Giver
Allow your kids to hear you talk about being thankful, recognizing God as the giver of all things. “Every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17), so at the dinner table, in the car, or while tucking them in at night, speak words that acknowledge God as the source. Look for Him in the little things, and thank Him as the ultimate Giver.
Speak the Language of Thanks
In giving thanks, “give” is a verb, an action that requires intentionality and effort. To speak the language of thanks requires you to look for things to be thankful for and name them. To do this with your children, look for and talk about what you CAN do, what you DO have, and focus on what IS rather than what isn’t. A few fun ways to capture this with your children:
- While in the car, play “I Spy” with a different twist. Spy things that you are thankful for – the sunshine, the moon, the trees – and share those out loud together.
- Go through the alphabet and name something you are thankful for with each letter. You can also put the letters in a bowl at the dinner table and share something you are thankful for that starts with the letter you draw.
Practice Thanksgiving All Year
A spirit of thanksgiving is not just for one time of year – it is a heart attitude that can be cultivated all year long. Much of practicing thankfulness is slowing down and being present enough in the moment to see what is there. Here are some ideas of how to practice this throughout the year:
- Design a “Tree of Thanks” and put it in a common area where family members can add things that they are thankful for throughout the month. Include big celebrations and small victories as well as the hard things that you have persevered through together. This may be something that stays up all year long as you seek to cultivate hearts of gratitude in your family. Much like a tree, our heart of thanks grows the more we nurture and care for it.
- Older kids may get involved by helping out at school, church, or other community organization. Volunteering is a great way to increase gratefulness and compassion for others and can teach kids to be invested in something other than themselves. As parents, serving alongside your children is not only a great way to spend time with them, it can help you develop gratitude in yourself as well.
In One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp states, “Practice is the hardest part of learning, and training is the essence of transformation.” Practicing thanksgiving with your children can transform in them a love of the Giver, an appreciation for His blessings, and a joy in giving back.