Does your family tend to get too caught up in the preparation of the holidays and spend too little time giving thanks to God? Make the most of your time together and honor God as a family.
1. Many families take a moment on Thanksgiving Day to let each person say aloud what he or she is thankful for this year. Experts say it is a good idea to expand this idea and create a gratitude journal to express your thankfulness everyday. Making it a point to list one small thing that brings you joy every day helps set a positive tone for your life. It can be as simple as listing the pretty weather, colorful fall leaves, cats underfoot, or a good laugh at a pointless commercial. Tell your spouse or your children what brought you joy today. What are they grateful for today? They may surprise you.
2. Use you gratitude list to help others. If the children say they are grateful for their family, find ways to get the family together more often for a game night. Or spend time with a someone in your community whose family lives far away. If they are thanks for their toys, help them box up unused toys to give to holiday toy drive. Help develop gratitude in children by showing them ways they can help those less fortunate in meaningful ways. It is a good lesson for anyone, any age.
3. Make Thanksgiving a time for reinforcing the importance of family. Make a family tree poster for the children to fill out and display. Make a collage of duplicate family photos. Record family stories told by some of the oldest members at dinner. Have children paint a picture of their family to give to adoring grandparents. Make Thanksgiving cards with a child’s handprint. Tale a group picture this year. Begin creating a family scrapbook with pictures and written remembrances of members who are no longer with us to celebrate Thanksgiving.
4. Have a Thanksgiving Prayer Circle. Gather the Family together before the meal and join hands in a circle. Explain that you would like for each person to share what he or she is grateful for on Thanksgiving Day. Invite each person to say a sentence prayer in silence or out loud. Make sure the person gathering the group prays last. Ask that each person squeeze the hand of the person next to him or her when they are finished praying. When everyone has prayed, bless the food and ask blessings upon all the people gathered in the circle and their families. This is a special way to connect families to one another and to God. It is also very important for children to hear family members pray for them by name.
5. Having great music playing is a great way to set a festive tone for the meal. As a way to remember to keep God in your thoughts, play some of your favorite Christian praise and worship music as everyone gathers for the Thanksgiving feast.
6. Plan for a time of rest at some point in the day. Set aside a minimum of one hour for your family to take a walk together, listen to soothing music, or relax on the sofa in silence. At our house, the holidays are always busy and if we are still for any length of time, we fall asleep. Everyone could probably use an afternoon nap. Whether you relax as a group or take a nap, remember to sped some of that time in personal prayer and reflection. Most of us lead very blessed lives and spend very little time appreciating the people and opportunities surrounding us.
7. Reflect on the past year. Ask the family to share what God has done in and through their lives this year. Talk about a time when you felt the presence of God. It could also be an opportunity for a person to count the blessings God has given this year. What about surprises God had in store for the past year? If it remains uplifting, this can be a positive worship experience. Get the children involved. Get the conversation going with questions like, “For what are you most thankful? Is being thankful a choice or a feeling? Do you remember any stories in the Bible about thankful people? How will you continue
8. Have members of your family pick out a favorite Psalm or verses from a Psalm to share with the family. Pick one that speaks to your heart and mind in a special way as you reflect on the past year in a spirit of Thanksgiving. The Book of Psalms is a book of poetry and can add a spiritual element to the family meal.
9. Show children there is something to be thankful for each day. Create a thanksgiving box early in November. Ask the children o decorate the outside of a shoebox with typical Thanksgiving symbols, turkeys, pilgrims, and so on. Keep the box in a conspicuous place in the house, such as the kitchen table or the coffee table in the den. Each day after supper, ask family members to reflect on their day and write on a slip of paper something for which they are thankful. Place the slip of paper in the thanksgiving box. On Thanksgiving Day, open the box with your family and review the slips of paper collected throughout November. It is one way to count your blessings!
10. Pray for those who have lost family members during the last year. Light a candle of remembrance and call out the names of those in the family who are no longer physically present. Holidays can be such a hard time for families who have lost loved ones. Don’t push. The first holiday after a loved one passes is hard on everyone. Don’t force a special tradition initiated by one who is not with you this year. Ask someone to carve the turkey or say the prayer to honor the one who has passed. If it is something that is non-essential to the meal, let the tradition go by the wayside this year to give everyone a little time to heal. Ask someone special to pick it up next year or develop a new tradition. Make things as simple as possible to help get through the day. Sometimes, that is all you can do.
This list was originally published in the November 2006 edition of North Mississippi Christian Family… see this story at NMSCF November 2006 – p 6-7