The Thanksgiving you’ll never forget

We’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving for 400 years. Nothing has stopped us yet and neither will COVID-19. In response to the spike in virus cases this fall, the CDC is recommending we forego large gatherings and instead plan more intimate dinners within our own households or social bubbles. Grocers anticipated this and started ordering 10 pound turkeys back in October to replace the 16-pounders we usually buy. 

We know you’re disappointed. After all, according to the Harris Poll, Thanksgiving is the second most popular holiday in the United States; but we’re tired of the coronavirus and should do all we can to get it to go away. We’re in uncharted territory and that’s good news. We can abandon our preconceptions about how to celebrate and create a day of thanks that’s unique to each of our families. One thing’s for sure -- we’ll be talking about this Thanksgiving for decades! It’s one for the ages.

Take time to celebrate

It really isn’t about the centerpiece, the gourmet side dishes, or the curated playlist Alexa is DJ-ing. It’s about taking time out of regularly scheduled activities to pause and reflect on who you are as a family and what you truly are thankful for. It’s during these simple moments of reflection - such as the moment of saying “I am grateful for…” - that learning and growth can take place. Use this opportunity to cultivate the habit of reflection by asking questions that provoke your kids to think about what they want, who they are, what they care about, how they feel, and ultimately what they should do as a result – not because someone told them to do it, but because it’s an authentic choice for them.  

Research confirms that holidays are important, especially for children. The happy memories you create when your kid is young will lead to positive interactions when they’re parents - think of it as your way of paying it forward to the next generation. This is because traditions give us a sense of belonging. And kids, just like adults, worry about finding their niche, fitting in and ultimately belonging, especially during times of stress, uncertainty or when they’re making transitions such as remote learning. It also happens when kids feel different or like an outsider due to race, ethnicity, language or even a physical disability.

Celebrations give us, and our kids, a sense of belonging. They are a powerful way to celebrate progress, not perfection. And they help combat uncertain times. This has been far from the perfect year, if such a thing even exists, and it’s time to put it behind us and help our family feel more anchored.

Do it your way

Holidays such as Thanksgiving hold so many good memories for us because of the family and cultural traditions we’ve practiced over the years, which help us feel grounded and like we “belong”. So, create your own traditions this year. Don’t want to cook a turkey? Who cares? The colonists sure didn’t. They ate seafood.

Be okay with an alternate plan

It’s a shame when plans get canceled or changed, but making a back-up plan lowers anxiety for adults and can even build confidence for kids. So grandma and grandpa can’t join you this year? Let’s think of an alternative that’s almost as good. 

Capture the story

Preserve these Thanksgiving memories for posterity. We’re living history. Record the day digitally and include a few reality-TV style confessionals. If they prefer to write it down, suggest they include illustrations. Bind the finished product into a book and re-read every year.

Can you picture your kid telling their kid about this Thanksgiving in ten or twenty years? Listening to a story helps people focus, develop empathy, and navigate some of life’s challenges. What kid doesn’t love hearing real-life stories, especially when they’re about the family? Those are the ones they remember the longest.

Say thanks anyway

Did we just catch you rolling your eyes? The truth is most of us do have plenty to be thankful for right now. Even in the midst of a pandemic, thankfulness has the power to energize and to heal. Robert Emmons, Ph.D., a scientific expert on gratitude, says, “A grateful attitude is essential when life feels like it’s not going well. It’s when we’re in a crisis that we have the most to gain by a grateful perspective on life.”

May this season be memorable, enjoyable, and delicious to you and yours!