"Now, what do you say?..."
Every parent has asked their kids this leading question at least once. It usually happens when they've just been handed a gift by a relative or a friend, and you patiently remind them that it's polite to say "thank you."
Thanksgiving is a holiday that's nominally dedicated to giving thanks, but sometimes I think the big lesson about gratitude ends up getting get lost somewhere between the turkey, the pumpkin pie, and the post-football nap.
When we take the time to share what we're truly thankful for, we teach our children two important things:
First, we show them that it's healthy to express our gratitude for what others have provided. This sense of appreciation goes deeper than just the politeness of saying "thank you." It means we consciously acknowledge that our lives are better because of the people in it, and because of the blessings and benefits we enjoy.
Second, we show them that there's no shame or weakness in needing help, or in appreciating and accepting it when it's offered. Individualism and a "do-it-yourself" mindset are helpful for getting through life—and they're a far healthier approach than a "just let everyone else do it for you" mentality—but the truth is, we can't do it all alone. The earlier we can teach our kids that it's healthy to ask for help and accept it with grace, the easier it will be for them to communicate their needs to others as they grow up, and to help others along the way.
So this Thanksgiving, by all means, give thanks for the friends, family, and food that you have the pleasure of enjoying. But if you can take a few extra moments to talk with your family about what you're truly thankful for in your life, your work, your health, and your friendships, the lessons learned from that conversation will last much longer than the leftovers.