You can start this project on the beginning of November or just in the week leading up to Thanksgiving, but regardless of when you begin, teach your kids that being thankful isn't limited to Thanksgiving Day. Each day, have your children write down something that they're thankful for. If they're old enough, have them keep a thankful journal. For little ones, have them draw a picture and then add their words to each picture. On Thanksgiving Day, everyone can choose to share what they've been thankful for over the month, or pick a couple of favorites.
Sometimes, the most impactful way that children can learn to be thankful for what they have is by sharing it with others. There are countless ways you can give back during the Thanksgiving season and you can choose what works best for your family. Try collecting all of the unused coats in your closets to donate to a local coat drive or sponsor another family's Thanksgiving meal (try calling your local elementary school and asking if they have any families in need). How you choose to give back isn't as important as the lesson you teach your children when you do.
They say it takes a village to raise a child these days and as parents, we know this is true. Have your children make a list of all the special people in their lives -- grandparents, friends, teachers, aunts and uncles -- and help them think of ways to show each of these people how much they mean to your children. Pop notes in the mail from your kids (and you!), letting them know why they are thankful for them or, simply pick up the phone and call.
Have some fun with giving thanks -- it doesn't have to be completely serious and introspective! If you're hosting Thanksgiving this year, have your kids make placecards for each guest and include a reason they are thankful for that guest on their card. Make a Thanksgiving tree in your house by cutting out leaves from construction paper and having your kids add something they are thankful for on each leaf.
The best way to teach your children about giving thanks is to be a good example. Tell your children what you are thankful for and make giving thanks part of your daily routine, maybe at the breakfast or dinner table each day. Don't forget to let your kids know what it is about them that you are thankful for, even if it's just that they put their dirty socks in the hamper that morning. Before you know it, they'll be seeing things to be thankful for, too.
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