Other than the feasting part, Thanksgiving is often an overlooked holiday for kids. Trapped between the allure of Halloween treat-or-treating and the joyous spirit of Christmastime, Thanksgiving can often become just about turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. Don’t let Thanksgiving be a mere food holiday for your family. Here are some Thanksgiving traditions to start with your teens to ensure they understand the spirit behind this important holiday.

carving Thanksgiving turkey on the dinner table

After carving this bird, the Thanksgiving vultures descend for a feast. (And by vultures I mean our family).

Thanksgiving Traditions to Start With Your Teens

Random Acts of Kindness

In a world where bad news floods the airwaves and the political conversations are getting more heated, it’s of vital importance to be kind. Brainstorm some acts of kindness you can do with your kids. In our family, we talk at the Thanksgiving dinner table about one thing each of us can do to be more kind. What can start as a Thanksgiving tradition can continue through the New Year and beyond.

Something as simple as holding the door for someone can spread the ripple effect of kindness. Last year, we took it a step farther and spent some time preparing Thanksgiving Day meals for a homeless shelter. Tis’ the season to be kind, in November and every day.

Take Some Family Photos
LGBTQ family on hiking trail with dogs

A brisk Fall hike in the woods can be the best bonding experience for you and your kids.

Even if you reside in a mild climate like we do in sunny California, fall is a brilliant time for family photos. Taking an outdoor picture around Thanksgiving not only will showcase fall foliage in some areas, but it will also document what the season is all about – family. Family is what we are most thankful for during the holiday season and all year, so why not frame that memory with a beautiful photo? (That is, of course, if you can get everyone to smile at the same time without melting down).

Unplug for the Day

In our house, we have problems getting the kids to put their tech away for the day and just focus on time with the family. Especially on Thanksgiving Day, we ask our teens to turn off their smartphones and lock up their tablets. Rather than Snapchat the holiday, encourage your kids to just be there in the moment. Take this as an opportunity to engage in conversations with your family that may not happen as often as you would like. Ask your teens about their future goals. Talk about vacations and plans for school holidays. Share some of your favorite Thanksgiving memories from your own childhood and their own.

laptop and mobile phone

Too many tech devices take up valuable time and brain power, so consider putting them away so the whole family can be less distracted.

Start a Gratitude Journal

Every year on Thanksgiving, each member of your family can fill out a page of a shared family Gratitude Journal. Model for your kids first by listing all the things you are grateful for during the past year. Perhaps this will cause some reflection on some tough times throughout the prior year, but chances are you’ll find some amazing things to be grateful for. You may choose to include pictures or drawings of your own. Let your teens be creative as they decorate and write their own gratitude page or pages each year.

Gratitude Journal and pen

Writing down reasons to be grateful is a great way to set intentions for the coming year.

Write a Letter

Sharing words of affirmation to someone you are thankful for not only empowers the recipient of the letter, but it also fills the writer with a sense of joy. Ask your children to write a letter to someone who has made a significant difference in their life in the last year. This may be a family member, coach, teacher, or friend. It could even be of larger scale, like Sophia’s letter to President Obama that shook the world. You could also encourage them to focus on someone who does not always get recognized for their good deeds.

These Thanksgiving traditions to start with your teens are great ways to start the holiday season with gratitude and grace. From acts of kindness to writing about the good in the world, these ideas will help your family grow closer each year.

Do you have any Thanksgiving traditions at your house that are meant to engage the kids? Please share them with us!