Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love having a holiday with no obligation to buy anything, delicious food everywhere, and plenty of opportunities to give back to those in need. Plus, it celebrates my favorite season! It just can’t get better than that. I’ve noticed the “Christmas Creep”, as I like to call it, seems to get stronger each year. The marketing of Christmas in stores and malls seems to creep into the fall earlier and earlier each year. My kids are thrilled to see Santa appear in our local mall, and I’ve enjoyed shopping some super early holiday sales this year, but I don’t want my children to overlook Thanksgiving as simply the “precursor to Santa”. It’s hard to compete with the Big Guy in Red handing out candy canes on November 5th!

It’s been a challenge as a parent to teach my children to be thankful for what they have– especially when friends may have more– without seeming like a “grinch”. I want them to be grateful for the many things they have: family, shelter, food, clothing, toys, safety; however, I don’t want to frighten them by teaching them about all the children of the world who don’t have these things. One thing that has really helped has been focusing on our local community and giving back when we can. Each year, we talk about how there are families in our own community who are having a hard time affording food. We shop together, with our local mom friends and children, for things we think we’d miss if we couldn’t afford them during the holiday season (and every day), and deliver some holiday foods to our local food pantry. We visit our local nursing home and hand out cards to the residents to bring some cheer to people who may not have family to gather with this season. And finally, we make “Thankful Turkeys” together.

Thankful Turkeys are something we started last year when my sons were 6 and 3. They enjoyed them so much that they asked to make them again this fall, when I had forgotten all about them (oops!). The premise is simple: we make a turkey body, and add a feather each day in November leading up to Thanksgiving with one thing we are thankful for. Then, on Thanksgiving morning, we read our feathers to remember how thankful we are for what we have, and display them during dinner later that day. Last year’s turkeys were a bit small for all the feathers we added, so we went bigger this year. I love hearing what my children are grateful for. The list is varied, including people, pets, and of course, toys.

Whatever you and your children do to celebrate Thanksgiving season, I encourage parents to teach them to reflect on their lives and be grateful. If you have a roof over your head, food on your table, and safety in your home, you have much to be grateful for this season. Enjoy this month of gratitude with your family!