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 has many benefits for family members, including parents, children and teens. According to the American College of Pediatricians, research shows that family meals can help foster healthier eating habits, less obesity, better family communication, fewer behavioral issues, less television watching, less stress, better school performance and a lower risk of 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. To create a “family table,” The American College of Pediatricians suggests these tips:
- Eat together as a family whenever possible, but for at least one meal a day.
- Designate a specific location in your home for eating meals.
- Serve a healthy variety of foods; avoid short-order cooking; try to have all members of the family eat the same thing.
- Turn off electronic devices, including the TV, cellphones and tablets.
- Encourage pleasant and respectful conversation.
- Have everyone stay at the table until everyone has finished eating and sharing.
- Enjoy the meal and the time together; don’t rush.
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., pediatric 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 about something that:
- They are Gratefulfor today
- They Learnedtoday
- They Accomplishedtoday
- Delightedthem today
Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness
Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness provides resources to help you and your child build healthy habits. 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.
There are many opportunities to volunteer in our community, particularly during the holiday season. Helping 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.
Nikki Boyd is coordinator, health and wellness programs, with Norton Children’s Prevention & Wellness.