Fall blessings: Teaching your kids the lessons of thanksgiving
Our kids tumble out in fierce and feisty costumes at Halloween. Knocking at a stranger’s door, they are rewarded with chocolate and sweet treats that seem to say, “I am seen, loved, and I belong.”
Fall evenings are shorter, just perfect for snuggling in long jammies at the end of the day. If love has a fragrance, it may well be the scent of our children, drawn close after a warm bath.
And cooler weather invites comfort at the table. Soups simmered low and slow, crusty bread slathered with butter, fall desserts with salted caramel, apples, pears and tangy plums. Soothing flavours hark back to a time when families gathered over groaning tables at harvest. Tasting the goodness of the season with those we love sets belonging and acceptance in our most primal memories.
Fall is satisfying. It’s heard in quiet moments, like the sigh of quiet delight, sipping a pumpkin-spiced latte or a steaming chai. We pause, settle, and return with gladdened hearts to school runs and suppers, schedules and shifts.
It’s all been leading up to this moment. We’ve almost gotten through another year. We can’t believe how time has flown. We gather as family and friends to count our blessings, look at where we’ve come from, to celebrate, and give thanks. Here, we find that fall has led us to traditions that actually define community, and quite possibly save our lives.
Traditionally, harvest celebrations involved entire families and communities. They literally conjoined efforts to gather, preserve and share food that would last them throughout the coming, dormant season. A small group could prepare and plant fields, but cultivating and harvesting them on time required enormous effort by the community. Everyone sharing the labour enjoyed the bounty, taking time to celebrate and rest once the work was done.
Some even exchanged gifts that demonstrated the value of these alliances. Celebrations became a way to say, “I couldn’t do this, wouldn’t have this, without you. So thank you.” Projected beyond traditional American Thanksgiving motifs is a powerful picture of interdependence and decidedly unnationalistic humility. It happened over a shared “thank you” meal.
Many fall festivals pivoted on giving thanks to God for an abundant harvest, for sunshine, rain, and providence.
Overflow meant there was more than enough to share with those who were less fortunate, and participation in gleaning provided dignity for the poor. This gave everyone in the community grounds for gratitude.
Now science is catching up with time-honoured tradition. Gratitude, it seems, is good for us. Giving thanks requires us to stop. It refocuses us on abundance rather than scarcity. We stop peering into obsessive sameness, and humbly open ourselves to appreciate the many gifts we are being offered. We can literally change our thinking, and change our lives, by becoming grateful. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is good for our hearts and our health. It helps us sleep better. It improves our relationships. It makes us more effective leaders. It helps to prevent and heal depression, and develops resilience. Gratitude can literally save our lives.
A Culture of Gratitude
Here’s the good news, Momma. Gratitude is “better caught than taught.” Your kids will take their cues from you. You’ll curate conversations while driving, at the dinner table, you’ll reframe life through a lens of thanksgiving. You’ll begin to appreciate the way your little one has said or done something, and point it out. You’ll quietly praise your partner each day for something wonderful that might otherwise be overlooked. This will catch on!
Good manners are powerful tools. Acknowledging the presence and the efforts of anyone who helps, sends a message to others that they are important and visible. The habit goes a long way towards diminishing entitlement.
The humble “thank you” note is a powerful tool in your arsenal. Doing so requires reflection, intention, and the gift of time. Researcher, Dr. Andrea Hussong, explores the connections between gratitude and resilience in children. She explains that the best way to teach our children gratitude is to help them notice, think, feel, and do.
Authentic thanksgiving means that your child can understand, appreciate, and respond to goodness in a person or situation, in an age appropriate way. For baby, this could be expressed by an affirming smile or hug.
You could help your toddler find grateful words, repeating his/her own words in conversation to connect deeply. Your older child might enjoy exploring specific ideas through crafts, or with a gratitude jar. And tweens (like adults) definitely grow by keeping a gratitude journal.
Thanks Fall, you offer a treasure trove of wisdom for our homes. You beckon us to pause, to observe, to reflect, to enjoy. You move us to work diligently in order to enjoy extravagantly. We humbly realise that the most important things--life, love, opportunities--are best received as good gifts.