Be grateful with your kids this Thanksgiving

With another Thanksgiving around the corner, we’ll soon gather around the table for stuffed turkey, pie and maybe even a game of football. Our modern Thanksgiving looks a lot different than it did in 1621 when the Pilgrims at Plymouth, Mass., gave thanks for their bountiful harvest. Even if we’re distracted by hosting family and catching the big game, the tradition of giving thanks -- even if momentarily -- is a welcome part of this great American holiday.

What is gratitude?

Gratitude is expressing appreciation for what you already have, and also being thankful for the kindness of others. It’s easy to focus on what we don’t have when our friends and neighbors seem to have more or better things. But it’s when we are grateful that we experience the most joy. So while when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner moderation is called for, gratitude is one thing we would do well to pile high on our plates.

Why be grateful?

Robert Emmons, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis, researched the effects of gratitude for more than a decade. He says grateful people sleep better and have better relationships with their friends, spouses and others. One of his studies found that grateful children are more happy with their school and family lives, and they get better grades.

Be grateful with your kids this Thanksgiving

I’m a mother of two and, knowing the benefits of gratitude, I want my boys to learn this virtue at a young age. My family has a Thanksgiving tradition of going round the table, and saying what we’re each thankful for. Each year is sometimes it’s harder for the children to find their answers (besides the obvious top picks of candy and toys).

That’s why I’ve created a Free Thanksgiving Printable Coloring Sheet for your kids (an mine). They can color the page, and each week, journal or draw (or both) what they’re grateful for. I plan on doing this with my two young gentlemen after dinner. I recommend placing the coloring sheet on your refrigerator so your child stays engaged with the activity. By Thanksgiving, your kids will have a long list of reasons to be appreciative … and who knows, they might even make better grades at school!

Be thankful year round

Hopefully your Thanksgiving is wonderful, but life isn’t always blue skies. It’s when things go wrong that gratitude is even more important. Choosing a positive attitude benefits us more than choosing negative thoughts. Plus, when things go wrong, it magnifies the good things in our lives. After all, Thanksgiving arose after the Pilgrims suffered through a terrible winter and year. Be thankful all year long, and by next Thanksgiving, you’ll have more to smile about.

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