Thanksgiving is a time when many of us gather together with our families and friends. If we are fortunate, it is a day that revolves around cooking and eating much food with our family and friends, and probably watching several football games - perhaps even playing in a game of family football after dinner. It is a special time in part because we gather together, but also because we pause to give thanks. Of course if makes more sense to show gratitude on a regular basis, throughout the year, rather than concentrating it all on Thanksgiving.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
There is much to teach our children as we celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday. The actual story of the Pilgrims and the Indians is a good start, and children can help to prepare the Thanksgiving meal. But the real work of teaching children about Thanksgiving is to convey to them the value of giving thanks, of feeling gratitude, which is a much more challenging task that cannot be reserved just for Thanksgiving day. Jenn Choi wrote about this topic in the Atlantic Monthly: How to Teach Kids to be Grateful: Give Them Less where she talks about teaching her children gratitude about food and toys.
As adults, we get to choose how we view the world, a viewpoint usually based on our experiences, our upbringing, and a myriad of other factors. That viewpoint first begins to form during childhood, when the adults around us (parents, teachers, coaches, extended family, etc.) help to shape us through teaching, and even more powerfully, by their example. We can choose to have a positive viewpoint or a negative one, to see the glass as half full or half empty. Part of having an optimistic outlook on life is feeling gratitude for what we have, recognizing that we have much to be thankful for, and that there are others who are less fortunate than we are.
This Thanksgiving, in between the turkey legs and the green beans, the pumpkin pie and the football games, let us give thanks. In the year ahead let us work to teach our children to do the same. In the Wall Street Journal, Diana Kapp wrote about Raising Children with an Attitude of Gratitude, and cited research that shows that children who count their blessings reap concrete benefits, including greater life satisfaction and a better attitude about school. Let’s start teaching our children that “attitude of gratitude” starting this Thursday. Happy Thanksgiving to all.