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in: Fatherhood, Relationships & Family, Thanksgiving

• Last updated: October 2, 2020

5 Thanksgiving Traditions to Pass Along to Your Son

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Mike Koehler.

Vintage boy eating in candle light.

Your family is gathered around the table, on its best behavior and ready to dig in to a great meal.

And there sits your son at the kids table or stuck between his aunt and uncle wondering what Thanksgiving means to him besides turkey leftovers and time with relatives.

As the man of the house, Thanksgiving offers you a great opportunity to pass traditions onto your son that can make him understand why the holiday is uniquely important and uniquely American.

Here are five traditions that you can pass along to your son while he’s sitting at the dinner table (and away from it) during the Thanksgiving break.

Carving the turkey

Family eating at dinner table.

In traditional culture, there were often rites of passages for boys where they became men over their fresh kill. These days, that rarely happens in a suburban cul-de-sac, but you do have the opportunity to grant your son responsibility in front of a family gathering.

When you decide the time is right for your son to carve the turkey – and that may come because of age, or how he acts at the table or whether he fully understands the holiday – play up the ceremony. Brag on him, tell his grandma and cousins why he’s earned this.

And then show the way. Show him where the knife cuts the best, show him who gets the best piece (his mother) and how not to make a mess.

If you show him how to carve the turkey now, he’ll want to do the same for his own family.

Delivering meals

A boy delivering meat orders illustration.

Thanksgiving provides a great opportunity to expose your kids to how other people in your community live. Adopt a less-fortunate family in your town, buy them a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, and deliver it to their home. Serving dinner at a soup kitchen doesn’t have the same impact of actually going into someone else’s home with your son. By going into the homes of the less-fortunate he can see that not everyone has a Nintendo DS or a HD TV or bags and bags of chips.

Doing this will teach him that giving thanks for what you have shouldn’t be done in a vacuum.

Watching the Cowboys game

Vintage Tom Landry giving instructions to football player in ground.

The first lesson of Thanksgiving should be to give thanks that you aren’t a Lions fan.

Seriously, since football has left baseball in its dust as America’s pastime, watching it can unite fathers and sons with stories about old teams, great stats, and awesome games. On Thanksgiving, you can tell your son about the time Troy Aikman wasn’t an announcer, but a player. The day affords the time and relaxation to explain rules, break down the playoff races, and decide the best time to take a nap.

Diving into the leaf pile

Vintage kids enjoying in leaf pile.

How do you trick the entire family into doing a chore? Challenge them and reward them with fun. The challenge? Just how big of a pile of leaves can we make in the front yard after we’re done chowing down on pumpkin pie. The reward? Diving into it! The best piles will envelope dad, mom, sister and the family dog. Throwing leaves at each other and seeing how deep you can get buried can also burn off some of those sweet-potato calories.

And when you’re done, your yard won’t be any worse than when you started.

Saying grace

Grandparents and boy eating at table illustration.

This is what it’s all about when it comes to Thanksgiving. Some families have the tradition of saying what they’re thankful for. If so, let your son start that conversation. If he just says a blessing over your “fun,” let him do that. Whatever he says, no matter what it is, it should be honest and from the heart. You may be surprised what flows out once that tap has been turned on. He may even thank you for being such an awesome dad.

Now it’s your turn. Share the Thanksgiving traditions that you plan on passing on to your son or children. Drop a line in the comment box.

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