Thanksgiving traditions to keep your family happy all year

Thanksgiving is a time for families to come together to celebrate the bounty of the season, reconnect and express gratitude for life’s many blessings. It’s much more than turkey, football and parades.

Here are some ideas for Thanksgiving traditions you can start doing with your family to keep them healthy and happy beyond the holiday season.

Family mealtime

Family mealtime has many benefits for children and teens, including better school performance, higher self-esteem and lower rates of obesity. A 2008 study from the Journal of Adolescent Health found family meals to be a protective factor for substance abuse.

After gathering around the table this Thanksgiving, think about making family mealtime a routine all year. Families who share meals most days of the week reap the most benefits.


Regularly expressing gratitude is linked to increased levels of happiness.

“Gratitude helps people feel more connected to others, value their life and good experiences, handle adversity and improve their overall well-being,” said Katy Hopkins, Ph.D., child psychologist with Norton Children’s Medical Associates. “This includes feeling gratitude for past experiences and current blessings, and feeling hopeful and optimistic for the future.”

Thanksgiving is a great time to start a conversation around gratitude and how important it is to express gratitude every day. Here are a few ideas to get the conversation started:

  • Play the “What Would You Feel Without It” game (from Moments A Day.) Ask your children how it would make them feel if they didn’t have clean, running water; warm clothes; or (gasp!) the internet. If your children are old enough, talk about how some people live without those items every day.
  • Make a gratitude tree. Arrange a few fallen sticks in a jar or cup. Cut out leaf shapes from paper, attach looped string on one end, have family members write something they are grateful for on the “leaves” and place on the branches.
  • Use the GLAD technique, adapted from “The Mindfulness Toolbox” by Donald Altman. Ask your children something that:
    • They are Grateful for today
    • They Learned today
    • They Accomplished today
    • Delighted them today

Get moving

Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness

Find resources and information from our trusted specialists to keep your family well. Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness is supported by the Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Thanksgiving can be a time of overindulgence at the dinner table. Get your family moving to burn off excess energy. Organize a family hike, sign up for a family fun run or, instead of watching football on TV, have your own fun, friendly game in the backyard.

If you have younger kids (and kids at heart), play GoNoodle, a free fitness website that gets you dancing and moving.

Give back

There are many opportunities to volunteer in our community, particularly during the holiday season. Doing for others provides many benefits to mental health and well-being.

“Giving back to others, whether through relationships or through community and volunteer opportunities, can have significant positive impacts on well-being,” Dr. Hopkins said.

Research shows that giving back can help people feel more connected to others and their community, as well as help prevent feelings of loneliness and depression.

Search our entire site.