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When it comes to Thanksgiving, the “reason for the season” is different for everyone. However, the common themes are usually family, food… okay, and football. We come together with our loved ones to share an over-the-top meal that is often so stressful it results in serious bickering fueled by hot kitchens and hotter tempers.

So when did family fall out of Thanksgiving? When did the stress of the holiday keep us from creating memories with our loved ones in favor of hours in the kitchen? Bringing family back into Thanksgiving can be a way to strengthen bonds, foster a sense of belongingness, and ease the tensions of the day. Therefore, I present to you, five easy ways to get the whole family involved in the holiday.

  1. Food Prep: The saying “there’s too many cooks in the kitchen” can sometimes feel all too literal on Thanksgiving. It’s crowded and you have lots of mouths to feed, so having your kids trying to help you on the day of might not be possible. However, if you’ve got a fridge or freezer, you can do some meal prepping with your kids that will not only take things off your plate, but help your kids feel valued and included in the day. Some great tasks (that don’t involve knives if that’s a concern) can be making pie crusts, cranberry sauce, mashing potatoes, or putting together a salad!


  1. Family Giving Activity: Leading up to the holiday, try involving your whole family in an act of kindness. All together decide on something, whether it be collecting cans or volunteering at the food bank. Make it a collective decision so everyone “gets to” participate versus “having to”. Doing good as a family will enrich the meaning of the holiday and present a great opportunity for you all to work together.


  1. Hosting: On the day of, your house will be filled with shoes, coats, and hungry friends. Prep your children to take on some of the hosting duties to give them a real task that will help them feel valued, not just busywork. Collecting coats at the door or bringing drinks or appetizers to your guests are great! Not only will this give them a chance to practice some social skills, it gives you the chance to put your attention elsewhere so you can get to enjoying the day sooner!


  1. Clean up: I know what you’re probably thinking. You can’t get your kids to help you clean up after a meal on any other day, what makes Thanksgiving any different? Well, I bet your kids don’t get up at 6 am for school every day with a smile, but Christmas morning is a different story. Capitalize on the special occasion and bring the whole family back into the kitchen to clean up. Put on some music, put on the game, but set the expectation that this is a team effort. Watching how quickly the work gets done with everyone pitching in will set a great example and you might surprise yourself with the fun you can make out of the situation.


  1. Game: You know your child best, and maybe cooking and cleaning can’t capture their attention. Consider instead tasking your family with making up a game for everyone to play after the food. Allow your kids to be the game leaders, again helping them to feel valued and excited about the project. Some of these minute to win it activities are great for the whole family!


So take a breath. Remind yourself that this should be a day of fun and family. While things could be done quicker or “better” if you do it on your own, try to carve out the time to include your children and spouse. Your family is your team! And remember, you are still a picture perfect parent in our book if Chinese takeout and pizza is your families idea of the perfect Thanksgiving!


Happy Holidays!

Jenn Stout

Director of Family Education

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