Thanksgiving is a holiday full of tradition and meaningful history. It’s a time to give thanks, make wonderful memories with our families, and teach our children the importance of cooperation. Since Thanksgiving is such a family-centered holiday, why not get everyone involved with mealtime preparation and cleanup?
Here are some quick things you and your family can do to make Thanksgiving less stressful for you and more enjoyable for everyone (including the little ones).
Most importantly, enjoy this holiday with your family and remember to praise all of your children’s efforts. Encourage independence and individuality while your children help make this the best Thanksgiving ever. And remember to take pictures!
What are your favorite ways to get the family to help with Thanksgiving? Tell me in the comments below.
Black Friday. Those two words probably evoke a strong emotional response from you, whether you shudder in disgust or your heart flutters with excitement.
It’s easy to see that Black Friday has become a cultural phenomenon, with some national chains now opening on Thanksgiving evening. My Facebook feed on Friday morning is filled with photos and stories of how many cups of coffee people drank to stay up all night shopping, battles over the last $200 giant flat screen television, police interventions, and more.
We all love good deals, but what kind of impact does your participation have on your child? Are you at home the Friday after Thanksgiving enjoying breakfast together, talking about the fun times you had with family the day before? Are you decorating the house together for the upcoming December holidays? Or are you just getting back from a night out shopping, trying to hide presents before your child sees them and then heading back to bed to catch up on all that sleep you missed while your son or daughter plops in front of the television?
Black Friday deals are a great opportunity to save money on gifts you may need to purchase for the holidays, but they also prompt us to buy “gifts” for ourselves that we might not otherwise buy. If you come home with a new television or other adult “presents” that you start using right away, you start to model negative behavior to your child.
Stepping away from the family during a holiday to shop demonstrates the importance of materialism to your child and can devalue the significance of family and spending time together. And you don’t want to interrupt your child’s sleep routine to bring him or her with you on this shopping trip. That can leave your child cranky and a bit off all weekend.
While there is value in potentially saving hundreds of dollars on your holiday gifts and getting the shopping out of the way early, there are other ways to do both without giving up quality family time.
Small Business Saturday
As a response to Black Friday, which is dominated by big-box stores and national chains, local businesses and American Express founded Small Business Saturday in 2010. It has grown significantly in the past four years and is worth checking out in your town.
Bring your child with you on Small Business Saturday to local shops and let him or her help you choose gifts for family and friends. Not only is this a safer shopping experience (I haven’t heard of police needing to get involved or fights breaking out), but you don’t have to interrupt anyone’s sleep to shop during normal business hours, and you can use it as an opportunity to teach your child why you buy gifts for others at this time of year.
Small Business Saturday sounds great, but if you ditch Black Friday and bring your child with you on Saturday, how are you going to buy him or her gifts on the sly? Cyber Monday is your answer. Larger stores keep the deals going on Cyber Monday, which is the first Monday after Thanksgiving. Order those gifts online and get significant savings, special products, and sometimes even free shipping.
These are just two alternatives to Black Friday, but I’ll bet there are many more. I don’t want to discourage you from holiday shopping, but these options can help you maximize family and parent engagement time while providing teachable moments with your child—instead of caffeine-fueled fights in the fluorescent-light glow of a store in the middle of the night.
I love that the entire month of November is dedicated to parent engagement. It brings awareness to the critical role of parents in our homes. Every day should be Parent Engagement Day, because each day your child is learning and growing. Parents need to be present and aware of what’s happening and nurture positive development.
But what does this engagement look like? Many times we focus on what’s happening in the classroom and rely on the school to take care of the child’s needs. Parent Engagement Month helps remind us that it’s not just about academic needs.
A child’s development occurs in four core areas: social, emotional, physical, and academic. In order for the child to succeed in school—and in life—he or she needs to possess strong social and emotional well-being, have his or her physical needs met, and engage in learning for cognitive development and academic success.
A teacher in a classroom cannot nurture all of those areas in a child. If the parents are engaged and understand the development of a child and how to provide support, the child will be better prepared to learn. Then the teacher can do his or her best to help the child academically. Remember that while children change teachers every year, they do not change parents. Parents must be consistently nurturing those core needs in their child.
I often hear from parents that they want to be more involved in their child’s development, but are afraid that they are doing it wrong. They think the school can do a better job with their child. But the school can’t do everything. 92 percent of a child’s life from birth through high school is spent outside the school, and much of that time is at home. Only eight percent is spent at school. Eight percent! It’s impossible for the school to do everything with only eight percent of a child’s time. But when parents are supportive of a child’s development, the teacher is most effective helping the child academically.
As parents and as a society, we depend a great deal on schools to help our children. We spend billions to educate children. If we truly want education to help our students compete in a global economy, we must rely on the parents. It’s the parents who encourage the child with homework and learning activities, guide the child to develop self-confidence and self-esteem, and nourish the child with healthy food and exercise, and yes, love.
So parents, I’m calling on you to think hard about your relationship with your child during Parent Engagement Month. Are you paying attention to your child’s social and emotional well-being? Are you making sure he or she is living a healthy life? Are you coordinating with your child’s teacher to foster academic success outside of the classroom? Are you modeling the behavior you want to see in your son or daughter outside the home?
This is what parent engagement looks like. If every parent is dedicated to becoming an engaged parent, our children will grow up and contribute to making this the world we want to see. Let’s all become engaged parents this month and every month hereafter.
Holidays can provide abundant opportunities for kids to learn, and Thanksgiving is no different. From the story of its origin to emotional and social activities that will become cherished traditions, even family who don’t live in the United States can learn about the holiday and connect with your children in meaningful ways.
Try these five activities with your children and extended family this Thanksgiving:
These activities can help your children and family create positive memories that will keep the happy thoughts coming until next year’s celebration.
What are your favorite Thanksgiving activities to do with your children? Tell me in the comments below.
Amelia Orozco is the senior editor and writer at the Chicago Zoological Society/Brookfield Zoo and a community and entertainment reporter for TeleGuía Chicago. A mother of three, Amelia also maintains an active role in her community and church by working with youth and promoting education and diversity through her writing and volunteer efforts.