Thankfulness is a Family Affair

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Beth Pinyerd

By Beth Pinyerd

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.

November is recognized for many celebrations such as Peanut Butter Lovers’ Month, National Family Caregivers’ Month, National Model Railroad Month and more. But this week, Classroom Observer wants to start out November by stressing thankfulness for our children and families. Let’s start out this month being thankful.  

Right after Halloween and harvest festivals, it seems like Christmas just bursts into the commercial world. Wait! Where is Thanksgiving? As parents and teachers, how can we preserve Thanksgiving in the hearts of our children for now and in the future? Reflections upon the year and having hope for the future establish gratitude and thankfulness for families in order to provide a valuable Thanksgiving lesson for our children to learn. We have a whole month to take teachable moments as Thanksgiving approaches. 

“Lest you Forget” is a way to connect our Thanksgiving celebration to the first harvest feast and celebration that brought the Pilgrims and Native Americans together. This special time of looking back at history can be enhanced by reading books to your children. Too, there are valuable resources with pictures that you can share with your children about the first Thanksgiving. This is a good time to share your own family history and traditions. Children love to hear stories of when their parents and grandparents were children having Thanksgiving. 

How can we teach children to learn and care for others? Here are a few tips that I would like to share with you. Keep in mind that in the first five years, values and moral development begin. This continues all our lives but we as parents and teachers can take these early years as an open door to teach children morals and values. We have to look at age and child development as we assess what children can actually understand.

In working over the years with infants, toddlers who are 8 to 20 months old realize that they can make another child happy by being gentle and helpful. Praise the child when they do this positive action. Too, they understand they can hurt another child by hitting, pushing or grabbing. Immediate correction is needed when this happens by saying “no” or letting them know by verbal or facial expression that we don’t hurt others.

When a child is in their early twos and threes, they can understand and empathize the feelings, frustrations and hurts of others. When I see a child this age gently reaching out to another child by sharing a toy, blanket or hug, it melts this teacher’s heart to witness kindness from one so young. 

When children are in their late three’s and four’s, they definitely understand the importance of being kind and sharing with others. 

Children 5 years old and older develop values like honesty, respect and kindness, and are able to understand moral judgments. 

As parents and teachers, what can we do to teach values? Spend time and simply talk with children about different circumstances and situations they have had with other children. Role play different situations with your children. For example, if a child’s friend bumped into something or fell down and got hurt, discuss with your children on how they think the other child may have felt with these accidents. In addressing your  children, ask them how they helped their friend. With older children, ask for their ideas on how they can outreach and help. 

Children love to write and draw things they are thankful for. Give your child simple Post-it notes to write or draw what they are thankful for. These can be posted on the refrigerator, doors, walls or mirrors to remind families how blessed they are. Children love to do hand turkeys with fingers as the feathers. On each feather, the children can write and draw what they are thankful for. 

We don’t have to look very far to give and share with a person in need. I have a next door neighbor, mother of two young boys who looks for ways to help others. When I drive up with groceries or heavy book bags, these two boys help me unload my trunk to take heavy bags into my home. This truly encourages me and warms my heart. Opening a door for an older person or helping a person who is disabled by rolling a grocery cart for them when they enter a store are simple acts of kindness that mean so much. These are simple acts of kindness that are easy for a child to learn and feel the happiness and joy of helping someone else. These are life lessons of teaching compassion and gratitude. 

As parents, caregivers and teachers of young children it is so important to begin to teach manners. When serving snacks to 3 year olds, I love to hear them say “thank you.” Too, when asking for something, teaching a young child to say “please” as well as saying “I’m sorry” when doing something wrong is instilling good manners into the life of a child.  Manners help so much in interactions with others. 

As parents and teachers, we are the best models a child has in understanding gratitude. Being thankful for the little and big things in life by verbally expressing this is a simple act that will bring joy and happiness for your child to model and understand. Being conscious to thank your child for the little things they do for you encourages them to want to help more. 

With November being “Giving Thanks Month”, as we embark as schools, families and community, we can stress gratitude as we truly care for others.  As parents, teachers and community helpers, we can be models of showing what thankfulness really means to a future generation. 

Beth Pinyerd, Classroom Observer

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