Engage your family in making gratitude a lasting tradition.
Heather Johnson shares practical ideas for how she makes this basic moral
value part of everyday family life.
Cut strips of paper for each of your Thanksgiving dinner guests. Have
enough strips, as you will dinner rolls. Have each person write something
they are thankful for on each of the strips of paper. Take a package of store
bought Crescent Rolls (you can use your favorite homemade rolls also). Lay a
strip of paper long ways on the dough and loosely roll the “note of
Thanksgiving” up right in the roll. Bake as directed. As everyone sits around
the dinner table and eats their dinner rolls, have them share the message
they found in their roll. Then have the other guests’, guess, who wrote what
Cut a bunch of leaves out of “fall colored” paper. Head outside and find a few
sticks and twigs. Bring them in and stick them in a jar, basket, vase, etc.
Make your own little tree. As you write down what you are thankful for on
your leaves, tape them, or tie them to your tree. Use your gratitude tree as
your dinner centerpiece on Thanksgiving Day. Everyone will love looking at
the gratitude leaves.
Find a big tablecloth. A big piece of fabric will work also. Any material should
work, but smooth is best. On Thanksgiving, trace each person’s hand on the
tablecloth and write in the middle of the hand something they are thankful
for and the year. Each year, on the same cloth, enact the same ritual. Your
family will love not only seeing how their hands have grown, but they will
love to see what they were thankful for in the past. It can be pretty funny.
Over time it will become an heirloom. You will add grandchildren and in-
laws, visitors and memories.
#1: Instead of drawing on the tablecloth, trace the hands and words in pencil.
Take to your sewing machine, or hand stitch over the writings.
#2: Give each person a small piece of fabric to trace their hand and write on.
Then sew each piece of fabric to the tablecloth. Over the years you will create
a beautiful masterpiece.
Find a jar and fancy it up a little. Or you can have your children help with the
decorating. Cut up strips of paper and round up some pens and crayons. Put
the jar in an prominent place in your home. Everyday until Thanksgiving,
have everyone in the family write or draw a picture of something they are
thankful for that day and drop it in the jar. If you have small children who
can’t really write or draw, talk to them and fill in their paper for them. On
Thanksgiving Day, pull all the strips out and read them as a family. Talk
about how it felt to show increased gratitude all month long.
Cut long strips of paper in different colors. Our children like it when I cut
specific colors for each of them. Each day have them, or help them, write
down something they are thankful for. Then take your stapler or tape and
hook the strips together to form a chain. Hang it where the family can see it
everyday and watch it grow. On Thanksgiving have each person read what he
or she have written and been thankful for this month.
When you are done, simply cut the loops of the chain, lay the strips of paper
flat and either staple them together, or punch a hole and put a ring through
them. Store them as little flip books and pull them out each year to reminisce
about the things that you have been grateful for in the past.
#1: If you don’t mind the cutting, trace your children’s hands and cut them
out. If you don’t want to cut, just trace on a square of paper. Have your
children write down what they are grateful for each day and string the hands
together. Use it as decoration for your Thanksgiving meal. When
Thanksgiving is over you can take all the hands and staple them together and
put the year on them. Store them with your holiday decorations. Your kids
will love to pull them out every year and see how their hands have grown,
and what they were thankful for in years past.
#2: Cut out leaves, or gather leaves from your back yard. Write what you are
thankful for on the leaves and string them together using needle and thread.
Display all month and talk about it around the turkey table.
Throughout the month of Thanksgiving, once a week, trace the hand of
everyone in the family. Sit down every Monday and write down 5 things you
have each been thankful for that week. We like to write one in each of the
fingers, like feathers. Tape the hands to your kitchen wall throughout the
month so everyone can see them. Use the hands as a centerpiece for your
Turkey Table. You could even laminate them after the holiday and post all the
old ones each year as your children grow.
Gratitude Place Setting
Above each place setting at your Thanksgiving dinner table, set a few treats.
We like to have a small piece of chocolate; a caramel, some nuts, and we
always have some Chewy Runts, that look like fruits, or some other gummi
fruits. Here is the catch: before anyone can eat any of their little place setting
treats, they have to tell the table something that they are thankful for. This is
repeated for everyone, every time they want to eat one of the little candies or
nuts. Our kids not only love this one, but they love counting out the treats
for everyone and setting things up.
Once thanksgiving is over, don’t let the gratitude stop.
Every night when your family sits down for dinner, go around the table and
have everyone say something they are thankful for.
Each night, or if that sounds like too much, every Sunday, Take a few minutes
as a family and write in your Family Gratitude Journal. Have each person write
down something they are thankful for that happened to them that day. You
will watch as the Gratitude Journal grows and grows. Sit down now and again
and read through all the blessings you and your family enjoy.
Thank you notes:
Teach your children to write thank you notes. Or draw thank you pictures if
they are still learning to write. Small children find this daunting when they
have to write the whole note themselves. So instead, provide them with a
note where everything is written for them, except the person’s name, the
item (or reason they are thanking), and their name. This means they will only
be writing three words. It will be much easier for them to write the note when
they don’t have to write some much.
Show gratitude yourself. Our kids do what we do. Don’t just show gratitude
to other people, it is really important to show gratitude to our children and
Clear a “Grateful Space” on your fridge, or somewhere else in your
home. Throughout the year, post anything your family members are thankful
for. Encourage family members to contribute. It can become an everyday
reminder of the people and blessings your family is thankful for.
Heather Johnson is a homemaker, wife and mother of four children. She
serves as an adjunct faculty member at Brigham Young University teaching
her students the art of engineering a successful family.
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