Take time to give thanks

THANKSGIVING is generally viewed as the time to be thankful for a successful harvest.

Historically, those who settled in Canada from various countries brought their traditions to the harvest celebrations.

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Interestingly, there was another explanation. Explorer Martin Frobisher celebrated Thanksgiving not for the harvest but because he safely returned from an unsuccessful search for the Northwest Passage. In 1578 he held a formal ceremony in Newfoundland to give thanks for surviving the long journey.

Today, our celebrations vary from family to family. Typically it involves a big meal centred around a turkey. For some it is the weekend to close up the summer cottage, or maybe the first weekend the kids who went off to university come home for a visit.

All too often, we focus on the meal and miss the thankful part of the holiday. And yet, it is a good time to teach our kids about being grateful and realizing just how good they have it.

So, how about having a conversation about thankfulness this year? While you are sitting around the table, raise your glass and toast your good fortune. Mention something concrete for which you are thankful and then ask the kids to do the same. They may be mortified, but stick to your decision, and have them mention something, even something silly and small. It will get them thinking about how lucky they are.

The trick is to keep it simple. Don't go on at length about the famine in Africa, or kids in the hospital or the homeless. You don't want them to feel guilty, just to be aware that their life is good.

Kids learn by watching, so parents can be the role models. Take the lead, do it yourself without demanding that the kids reciprocate. Invite them to take a turn and accept it when they are not ready to participate.

Express your thankfulness and gratitude but try not to be maudlin or overly effusive. Your kids are going to be more responsive if you are almost matter-of-fact about your gratitude.

Be specific and use examples. When your kids help you carry in the groceries or are quiet when you are on the phone, say thanks. But go one step further to let them know how their actions helped you. "I really appreciate your help with the groceries, now I have a few extra minutes to relax before making dinner. Thank you." Then be quiet. It's easy to forget to say thank you but it's equally easy to find yourself being over-appreciative.

Notice when your kids are involved in any caring activities. Make a quick comment when they do something that is caring and considerate. Maybe they helped their grandfather up the stairs or opened a door for a woman loaded down with groceries at the mall. Make a quick comment.

Volunteer in the community and make sure the kids see you do so. Involve them in your activities and talk about giving back.

Once you get used to helping your children notice the good things in their life and also notice when they are being helpful, it will become a typical way of behaving.

Next Thanksgiving you may find that your kids are more than willing to talk about gratitude.

Kathy Lynn is a parenting expert who is a professional speaker and author. If you want to read more, sign up for her newsletter at www.parentingtoday.ca.

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