Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love taking time to be with loved ones and focus on our blessings before things get totally crazy with Christmas shopping and events. This is also the time of year when toy catalogs start arriving daily and the discontentment can start creeping in. As a parent, I try my best to cultivate gratitude in my children. It can be an uphill battle (for all of us!) any time of year, but the holidays provide more opportunities to practice contentment.
Here are a few ideas I am trying to help cultivate thankful hearts in my children and in myself:
1. Decorate a thankful tree.
A few years ago, we started the tradition of a thankful tree. Each day in November, we decorate the tree with something for which we are grateful. We usually just grab some branches from the yard, stick them into a vase or decorative pitcher, and then add leaves throughout the month. This year, we changed it up and decided to put up a small Christmas tree in our kitchen. We kept it fall-themed and have been adding to it each day. The children have enjoyed doing this, and it has also served as a fun compromise between our “house divided” battle of whether we would put Christmas trees up before or after Thanksgiving. This has quickly become one of my favorite traditions and I plan to continue it each year.
2. Donate, serve, or volunteer together.
I wrote a post last year with some ideas of ways to serve together as a family. There are so many opportunities this time of year to put this into practice. As my children get older, I look forward to volunteering with them even more. It helps all of us gain some perspective and take the focus off ourselves and place it on to others.
3. Keep a prayer or gratitude journal.
Again, counting our blessings is such a great way to remember to be content with what we already have. I recently bought notebooks for my children to write down one blessing, a scripture verse, and a prayer request each day. Realistically, we don’t do this daily, but the time we do spend together is very sweet. I am thankful to have a few quiet moments to be with them and I get a glimpse into what is on their hearts. I hope we will increase the time spent on this activity, so it becomes a habit we all look forward to.
4. Downsize toys.
It seems counterintuitive to get rid of items to make children feel more grateful, but I have noticed that the fewer toys my children have, the more they enjoy what remains. They play more creatively and take better care of their items when they don’t have as many options. It’s also an added perk when there are fewer things to put away each day. This is a great time to declutter and make room for any gifts that come in during the holidays.
5. Focus on experiences, rather than possessions.
I’m not a total Grinch and I do enjoy giving gifts during the holidays, but more importantly, I hope to spend quality time together. I want my children to remember experiences we had as a family and to feel loved and cherished. I hope to implement traditions that they want to continue with their own families one day.