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  • Northeast Wisconsin
  • January 2018
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Teaching gratitude

It’s common for children to learn about gratitude through the holiday season, but there are many more teaching moments that happy and healthy families can take part in. Participating in these types of activities helps to strengthen your relationships with children, and supports healthy youth development. 

Create family traditions

If you don’t yet have your own traditions, ask family and friends what they enjoy most about getting together during the holidays (for example, a game of charades, watching old home videos, children performing a play). Be intentional about carving out time for all guests, including the host, to participate.

Invite someone who doesn’t have plans

Be mindful that the holidays may be a lonely time for someone you know. Whether it’s your college student babysitter who can’t afford to travel home or a neighbor who doesn’t have family nearby, think about someone you may know that can be included in your celebration.

Give back to the community

This is a great time to volunteer as a family. Serving meals to others, making and delivering gift baskets, buying gifts for a family in need or spending time making handmade holiday cards for troops abroad are opportunities to teach the importance of empathy and creating joy for others.

Take a break between dinner and dessert

Once you’ve finished a delicious and filling meal, make sure to take a healthy break. Stand up and move around before having dessert. Take a family walk around the neighborhood or play a fun game of freeze dance indoors.

Go tech-free

Designate an area for cell phones and tablets where they can be silenced and off-limits for a few hours. Removing the distraction will help children and adults engage in face-to-face conversations and interactions that strengthen bonds and help everyone to decompress.

Take a deep breath

Whether you’ve spent the day traveling, preparing food or feeling over-stimulated by family time, remember to take a few deep breaths in the midst of it all. Centering our hearts and minds on what we are most grateful for connects us with the spirit of the season all year long. 

Reference: “How Healthy, Happy Families Celebrate Thanksgiving.” YMCA. Albin, J.

Jane Albin

Jane Albin, the Membership and Program Specialist with YMCA of the USA wrote the original blog post, “How Healthy, Happy Families Celebrate Thanksgiving.” It first appeared in the blog post Backpack Buzz on The YMCA of the USA has been working for 160 years to strengthen communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. Learn more at


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