Cultivating Thankful Hearts in Kids

Cultivating Thankful Hearts in Kids

As we reflect upon Thanksgiving, we remember it is a time to truly give thanks. Because of the media and the malls, our children may be already anticipating Christmas and what they are going to get.

If someone allowed me to create the “perfect” calendar, I would provide more time to savor the traditions of Thanksgiving. It is the quiet, reflective holiday tucked in between two very hectic ones. After the fun, yet often crazy time of the Fall Festivals and trick or treating, we turn our calendar to find beautiful November. Just as we are relaxing into the smells, anticipation family time together, enjoying the richness of the colors, reflecting upon its many messages…the malls and the media begin to cry out with Christmas. Now don’t get me wrong…I love Christmas. But more on that for the December article on “The Legacy of Traditions.. But in November, we need to keep our focus on Thanksgiving…that glorious time of year to reflect upon our many blessings.

May I invite you to take a moment and walk with me into Thanksgiving. For one thing, it’s a holiday that has no controversy. Halloween brings its dark side and at Christmas we probably can agree we have too much commercialism. Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks. Thanksgiving provides a perfect opportunity to teach our children about the rich heritage of our country. The lessons are innumerable! As an educator and school administrator for 42 years, I never tire of teaching students of all ages about our country’s early years.

So, if I planned the calendar, I would put at least six weeks between October 31 and when the ascent to the Christmas events begins. We don’t want this special time of Thanksgiving to be eclipsed. Here’s just a few of many activities you can do with your children.

Thanksgiving affords opportunities to cultivate Christ-like character in our children because the focus is not upon them, it is on God and others. Thanksgiving is a time to train their tender hearts as you…

♥ Focus on the rich heritage of our country.

You may want to take time to read books and cultivate a love for history (HIS story) in your children. Act out stories together.

 ♥ Focus on being thankful for our many blessings.

Make a BLESSING BOX for your home. At dinner or bedtime, have each person share three things they are thankful for. As the month continues, it allows us to s-t-r- e -t-c-h to see beyond the obvious and see how profoundly we are blessed. For young children you could say, “You are on a mission today to find things, people and events that show ways God is blessing you!” On note cards, write short one to three words reminders of their answers to put in your BLESSING BOX with the family member’s name. Cultivating this attitude of gratitude can become a habit, not only for Thanksgiving, but for a life-time.

♥ Focus on giving to others.

A thankful heart overflows and wants to give to others. Thanksgiving time provides many opportunities to serve and give to others. Participate as a family. As we know, more is caught than taught. They “got” candy in October and will “get” gifts in December. Thanksgiving is tucked in between and is the time to give.

♥ Cultivate Christ-like character traits such as contentment.

Before the holiday “gimmies” descend and children begin to focus on what they want train their hearts to be content with what they already have.

Select a scripture(s) that captures the message of Thanksgiving. Talk about the words, their message and how you can live them out each day with your family.

“…give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

(1 Thessalonians 5:18)

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

(Colossians 4:2)

Thanksgiving blessings to each of you this month!  

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Jody Capehart has more than 40 years' experience as a children's minister. She's the co-author of The Discipline Guide for Children's Ministry and the author of numerous other books. She currently teaches Sunday School at Stonebriar Community Church.