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Teaching tots to be thankful this Thanksgiving

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Homemade turkey 'gobble gobble'

 It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again.  The “holiday season” has arrived. It snuck in under the cover of darkness, taking over radio stations with “holiday classics” and replacing pumpkin-strewn windows with twinkly lights and mistletoe.  It seems to me that we have a retail-driven tendency to fast forward through the month of November in favor of the merriment and frenzied consumption of December. 

The problem (in my humble opinion) is that we gloss over one of the days that matters most.  A day that isn’t mired in trick or treating or gift-giving or even religious obligation but rather, a day that is all about gratitude.  About giving thanks. About taking a moment to pause with family and friends and reflect upon all we have to be grateful for.  As a parent, it’s tough to hit the pause button between Halloween and Christmas and teach our kids to truly give thanks on Thanksgiving.  It’s far too easy to get caught up in the Black Friday mania, in making a list and checking it twice, in the cookie-baking, Christmas-card making and general shopping-centric hysteria of the season. 

My hope is that I -- that we -- don’t get too caught up in it all.  That I find a way to impress upon our five kids just how lucky we are.  A recent poll of the Lyons Den would suggest I still have work to do.  Upon asking one of our three-year old triplets what we celebrated on Thursday and why it’s important, he replied enthusiastically “Chicken!”  Yep, it would appear I have a LOT of work to do with that one!
Liam and Ciara, now in kindergarten and second grade had better answers.  One said “On Thanksgiving it’s important to be thankful for our family,” and the other noted “Thanksgiving is a day to be grateful for the roof over our head and food on our plate.”  As lovely as these answers are, they sounded fairly well rehearsed; while I am grateful our local grammar school is doing such a good job instilling these lessons, I think we can do even better as a family.

I don’t actually have a set of prescriptive tips for teaching gratitude at home; if I did, I’m pretty sure that one little fella wouldn’t have mentioned chicken.  Although, who knows, the kid is a huge fan of chicken nuggets so perhaps he has coined his own unique way of giving thanks.  As for the rest of them, I think the best we can do is lead by example. To show gratitude each and every day. To express how we are feeling in clear, simple terms the kids can understand.  To let them know how eternally grateful we are for healthy happy children, a supportive family, amazing friends, rewarding jobs and yes, of course, the roof over our head and the food on our plates. 

In addition to talking about gratitude throughout the year (not just on the third Thursday of November), there are a few other things I think go a long way toward helping our children realize just how fortunate we are.  We can donate toys and clothes to the needy; bake brownies for a local shelter; make cards for nursing home residents.  These are all things we can do now and I hope to do before Santa comes down our chimney.

When our kids are older, I hope to volunteer in a soup kitchen as a family; to deliver food to the sick and elderly as a family.  If we start now, while they’re young, they just might think it’s cool to spend a day with Mom and Dad helping those who really need it.  As for me, I will always be grateful for the days we spend together as a family -- for those are truly the best days of my life.

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