Tips for Making the All-American Holiday More Meaningful for Kids
Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving?
Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, gathering with family and friends for turkey with all the trimmings, and of course football. Finally, an uncomplicated holiday!
For many Americans, Thanksgiving signals the start of the holiday shopping season, with Black Friday only a few short hours away. But before the onslaught of the gift-giving frenzy is in full swing, Thanksgiving is an excellent opportunity to teach our children to have an “attitude of gratitude.”
As Jews, this holiday can resonate with us in a meaningful way, since we are profoundly thankful for the freedoms that America has afforded us. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to celebrate alongside our fellow citizens, and offer appreciation for neighbor and country, reflecting our Jewish values of hakarat hatov and tzedakah.
Here are three easy things to do with kids this Thanksgiving to help them celebrate in a more thoughtful way:
- Share your personal family stories of coming to America with your children. Perhaps we didn’t arrive here on the Mayflower, but just as the Pilgrims came to America seeking religious freedom and better opportunities, so too many of our ancestors landed on these shores for the very same reasons. Share the details of how and when your parents, grandparents, or great -grandparents were “pilgrims,” arriving to this land. Let your children understand how we can relate to this holiday in a very personal and authentic way.
- Show appreciation. During the Thanksgiving meal, go around the table asking what everyone — children and adults — is thankful for. (No need to delay eating for this, but rather enjoy this conversation during the meal.) With the recent spate of natural and manmade disasters, it’s especially important to acknowledge our blessings.
- Be generous of your time with those less fortunate. Together with your child, donate food and visit a food pantry to help stock the shelves, or ask to help serve a meal. Children learn best by doing — and what better way for children to recognize how much they have, than by seeing how others live with so much less. As the Chinese proverb teaches, “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me, and I’ll understand.”
Thanksgiving always has held a special place in my heart. It is a holiday without any restrictions that allows us to be fully part of the American experience. It’s a universal holiday that bridges our differences, emphasizes our shared values, and reminds us that we are all part of the American dream.
This year, let’s celebrate Thanksgiving with a mindfulness as to how this holiday can unite us, regardless of our political beliefs, and mark our gratitude and deep sense of blessings for our freedom, prosperity, and community, for bountiful food and family around the table.
From my house to yours — happy Thanksgiving!
Dr. Tani Foger , Founder of “Let’s-Talk” Workshops is a psychologist and educational consultant in Englewood, New Jersey.