I wanted to share some of the responses I received. One reader shared an activity that she had done with her family.
One year we found a small branch with several smaller shoots coming off of it. We made a "Thanksgiving Tree" by cutting out construction paper leaves and attaching them to out "tree" with yarn. Each family member got a few leaves and wrote on the leaf something they were thankful for. We anchored our "tree" in a terra cotta flower pot and put it on our kitchen the table. On Thanksgiving day we brought it to my mom's house and we passed it around and each person read aloud what they were thankful for. Of course younger children can draw a picture of what they are thankful for.
Another reader directed me to her blog, where she had just posted on article on "Teaching Your Children the Meaning of Thanksgiving." Her blog, in turn lead me to another post on cultivating gratitude in children. An idea mentioned in that post, the family gratitude journal, struck home with me. We had started a family gratitude journal back in 2002. I pulled it off the shelf. It has a spattering of entries over the course of several years. My 8 year old was excited to see this because she really didn't have much memory of this journal from its early years. The older two, however, were not so enthusiastic. More like, "Oh no. Not the gratitude journal again." I was surprised at their negative reaction, but as they talked I realized that their negativity had more to do with the process than the content of the activity. In the past we would try to do it at the dinner table. I think they felt too pressured and inconvenienced to do this during a meal. So now I said I would just leave it out and whoever wants to write in it can whenever they want. We'll see how it goes.
But we did have a discussion last night about what gratitude activity we will be doing this year at Thanksgiving. I brought up a few suggestions, but they came up with their own idea. And I have to say, I'm very proud of them. So what we will be doing is creating a sheet of paper for each of us, all our Thanksgiving guests, and some of our family who won't be with us that day. The kids will decorate and personalize these papers before the guests arrive. We will leave them out on a table in the living room for each guest to write on each other person's paper stating something that they are thankful for about that person. Then each person will bring home their personalized paper.. Hopefully everyone will feel affirmed, grateful and blessed.
I'd love to hear any of your ideas for working in gratitude traditions with your family. And Happy Thanksgiving!