Everyone needs to feel appreciated. As grown-ups, we've had time to develop a strong sense of identity and can usually maintain our sense of self-esteem even when not getting praise regularly from others. Children, however, have fewer coping skills, so when they receive little or no attention, as frequently happens during the busy holiday season, kids often think there is something wrong with them.
Thanksgiving is an especially good time for us to take the time to reinforce our kids' sense of belonging and importance to the family. While we all have our own special ways of giving praise and attention, these are a few that have worked for generations of families:
- Involve your kids in the planning and preparation of the Thanksgiving meal. This is an opportunity to demonstrate that a child is an essential member of the family team.
- During the meal, ask each family member to say one thing that they are thankful for. Parents should give some reasons why they are thankful to have a particular child in their lives. If kids are uncomfortable with this, try using a Gratitude Bowl to get the conversation started.
- Recount happy memories of your childhood Thanksgiving. Describe to kids how you're now able to relive many of those memories because you have them.
- Pull out the family albums and look over pictures with your child, paying particular attention to those featuring the two of you together and recalling what you were doing at the time.
- Let your child choose an activity for the two of you to do together -- a way for him or her to get your undivided attention while demonstrating a skill and sharing an interest. Or, ask to participate in an activity that your child has been doing alone, perhaps because you simply did not have the time to join in earlier.
- And don't forget to stop during the holiday rush and hug your children. Sometimes a hug can do what all the talks and gifts can’t. And, don't overlook grandparents and teens – they can always use a good hug, too.