From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Thinking of Thanksgiving
This year, Thanksgiving may pose a challenge to even the most optimistic
among us. Terrorist attacks and our return to war have changed the basic way we
think. Americans have been forced to realize that we are not alone in the world,
that we have enemies on the planet, and that we can no longer afford to take
life and freedom for granted. Given these circumstances, parents and
grandparents who traditionally say a few words of welcome before the feast
begins, are encouraged to give their words some thought before hand. Why?
Because there is more at stake than one might guess. Consider the following
- Our children are fearful. Rather than learning to trust, events
have taught our children to become less trusting of others. Concerned
parents have had to teach their children to protect themselves from the
malice of strangers. Children are the most vulnerable among us due to their
size and life experience. However, it is not helpful to frighten a child;
fear only makes them less strong and less self-confident. We, as adults,
must make them feel protected!
- While today may belong to the grown-ups, tomorrow is the world of our
children. Most children have a propensity toward nightmares. Nightmares
usually develop out of their own thoughts, mental images, and bits of
overheard conversation. Kids can smell a lie a mile away and they know when
adults are censoring reality. Unfortunately, when we withhold the truth,
kids "fill in the blanks" with their overly active imaginations.
Also, when we attempt to hide the truth rather than explain what we know, we
deprive our children of our wisdom.
- Older family members serve as role models for their younger relatives. Through
our actions, we pass down family traditions whether we intend to or not.
Holidays are special times when friends and relatives get together. Not only
is this a time for socializing and celebrating, but it is also a time of
great learning for our kids. In most cases, children come away from such
gatherings with very definite and new impressions. On interview, some
children describe the holidays as times when parents misbehave, ignore them,
exclude them from conversation, and even isolate them physically from
adults. As parents, we must constantly remember that we are teachers and
role models for our children and be cognizant of what we are teaching them.
- What is the meaning of Thanksgiving? Beyond a huge meal, what does
this holiday mean to you? This year, some families will give thanks for what
they have, while others will be bitter about what they have lost. Which ever
is the case, your children will follow your lead. Thanksgiving can mean
"something" or it can mean "nothing". Some children view
the holidays as times when their parents drink too much. Others hope the
holidays will provide a brief cease-fire between chronically bickering
parents. This year, our children will likely look to us, their parents and
grandparents, for ways of understanding and coping with our current global
distress. What they need is encouragement and hope. For the sake of our
kids, I challenge each of us to consider giving our children a message which
will reassure them that they are loved.
As our world becomes more and more complex, our children will need better
instructions on how to take care of themselves, how to make good decisions,
manage conflict, and support a family of their own. And if we want our children
to successfully reside in this world, it will be our job to teach them the
values and skills they will need to peacefully and respectfully share the planet
with others. So, as you make this year’s Thanksgiving plans, remember that
holidays are very special times for our children. Later on in life, you can bet
that they will remember each holiday... usually with embarrassing accuracy!
(Note to my own family: "Enough jokes about the burned yams, guys!"). My
best wishes to all for a Happy Thanksgiving!
©Copyright, 2001, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
Return to Personal Growth
Return to Family Relationships
Return to Table of Contents