Explaining Thanksgiving to Your Child

I remember seeing our children come home from school the day before Thanksgiving dressed in costumes they’d made during class. Their teachers had explained about the Pilgrims and Indians and how they had a big celebration at the end of their first successful harvest.

This is important information for all of us. The Pilgrims nearly died out because they weren’t prepared for life in the New World. In fact, about half of them did die during that first, bitter winter.

The next spring, with the help of local Native Americans, they began to prepare like never before. The planted corn, which was a new crop for them. They preserved fish, meat and all of the edible plants of the forest. By harvest time, they knew they were ready for winter.

The Pilgrims were a Christian group. That’s why they left Europe and came to the New World. They were not allowed to believe and worship God the way they wished, so they left. They wanted to have a solemn celebration of their successful harvest and they wanted to share it with those who had helped them.

This feast was one of thanksgiving. They were thanking the Native Americans, and they were thanking God. We may never know what they ate, as no detailed menu was left behind. What was left behind was the great gratitude these people felt.

The “attitude of gratitude” is as important a concept for our children as is the history of the first celebration. They may or may not be taught any of this part in school, but we parents can make sure the children understand it.

We can start by telling our children what we are thankful for. Keep it age appropriate, five year olds won’t understand some of the more complex things, but show how you feel.

Once you’ve done that, sit down with them and write a list of the things they are grateful for. Don’t be surprised at anything they say…kids are notorious for coming up with some really interesting ideas.

There are several things you can do with this list when it’s finished. One idea is to use it to set the discussion around the table during your own feast of thanksgiving. Relatives may be encouraged to tell what they are grateful for. This will help children realize that the food they are eating is not the main event of the day.

Another thing I would suggest is that you keep this list. Save the ones you make with them over the years and when they are grown up you can give it to them. They can share it with their own children and make a tradition of giving thanks on Thanksgiving.

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