With Thanksgiving just around the corner, now is the perfect time to instill the value of gratitude in our children. Gratitude is a character trait all parents hope their children will develop and maintain. It not only reduces stress but also increases optimism and long-term happiness. Just as we desire to harvest gratitude within ourselves, we want the same for our children. But how can we teach gratitude beyond the simple act of reminding them to say “thank you” or explaining that others may be less fortunate?
Start with a Lesson in History
The autumn season provides an excellent opportunity for this instruction. Use this time to share the genuine, unembellished reasons behind why we celebrate Thanksgiving. Save the turkey and pie tales for dessert. Begin by introducing your children to “Forefather’s Day,” the original Thanksgiving, which took place on December 22. Paint a vivid picture of the Pilgrims’ journey to North America, where they sought a better life, escaping religious persecution, economic challenges, and cultural instability. Their story is one of bravery, trust in God, and sacrifice, reminding us how sacrifice leads to gratitude. By sharing this story, your children will develop a deep respect for the freedom granted to all by God and an understanding of both our good fortune and our responsibility to preserve our sovereignty.
Craft Something Tangible
In addition to discussing the history of Thanksgiving, create a purposeful craft with your children. Tangible creations are often highly effective in teaching abstract concepts like gratitude. Get creative! In our family, we create a “thankful tree” annually and display it on a door in our home. It’s simple but meaningful. Every evening from the start of November until Thanksgiving, we trace our hands and write something we’re thankful for on each finger. These handprints become the leaves of our tree, and by Thanksgiving, we have a colorful, full tree that bears witness to our gratitude. On its trunk, we inscribe, “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20). Another tangible creation is a “gratitude jar” where you and your children write something you are grateful for on pieces of paper and place them in a jar that they have decorated. If you start this in early November, you will have a jar filled with heartfelt sentiments to open on Thanksgiving. Other creative ideas include decorating a pumpkin with handwritten “thankful for” notes, a “thankful turkey,” and a “thankful cross.” Whichever you choose, it will encourage your children to explore their hearts and discover what they are thankful for, and seeing all those grateful sentiments will warm your heart with appreciation.
Give to Teach Gratitude
The holiday season offers numerous opportunities to participate in charitable events. Whether it’s sending leftover candy to troops overseas or assembling boxes for children in need, choosing one that suits your family is the key. Teach gratitude through giving, and make it age-appropriate. Younger children can donate clothes or toys, while older ones may benefit from volunteering or fundraising for a charitable organization. Keep it simple. Additional ideas include cleaning a friend’s home, assisting an elderly neighbor with groceries, doing yard work, setting up a meal train, participating in county road clean-ups, and more. Teaching gratitude through giving goes beyond the act itself; it can have a profound impact on a child’s personal growth and social compassion. Opening their eyes to the needs of others is a raw display of grace and gratitude that becomes its own reward.
Harvest Gratitude through Active Prayer
All that we have comes from God. His blessings surround our daily lives, yet they are often overlooked. Encourage your children to collect their thankfulness and offer prayers. Throughout the day, ask your children to maintain a gratitude journal where they jot down what they are thankful for, no matter how small. Later, perhaps at the dinner table or during bedtime prayers, they should thank God for these blessings. Some children may prefer to pray alone, while others may want to share their gratitude. Both approaches are valid and appreciated. Prayer is a natural expression of faith and a devoted act of hope. Gratitude helps us perceive God and opens our spiritual eyes. The more we thank God, the more we come to see Him. So, during this fall season, teach your children to harvest gratitude by drawing closer to God through prayer.
By following these practices, we can guide our children toward a deeper understanding of gratitude, helping them embrace it as a valuable and lifelong quality. Thanksgiving becomes more than a holiday; it becomes a daily practice.
Brittany Stewart, an accomplished writer and educator, draws inspiration from her 23-year marriage and upbringing near Lake Tahoe in Verdi, Nevada, now residing in Tucson, Arizona. With her Bachelor’s degree in Education, emphasizing Native American Literature and Journalism, Brittany is a multifaceted professional who is also a Licensed Massage Therapist. She is deeply involved in Tucson’s homeschooling community, leading a homeschool group, teaching dance, and offering art classes. She and her family have a homestead in Southern Arizona, where her husband hunts and she tends to the garden, emphasizing the importance of God and family in her life while continually seeking adventure through her travels.