I used to be the stressed-out mom who did everything at Thanksgiving.
I cooked while my family watched the morning parade. I cleaned to prepare for visitors. And I thought about the gifts I needed to buy and how I was going to get it all done before Christmas all throughout the day. I went along in this way for years.
Until last year, that is.
My mind shift started with the pandemic. Suddenly, the holidays were different. We celebrated much less with larger family and opted for quieter times at home.
With the changes, I realized that I didn’t actually like the way the holidays were before. The problem was that I had never stopped to consider what I wanted my Thanksgiving to be. How did I want to spend the day with family? It turns out I wanted to work less and enjoy more.
After this much needed reflection, I decided that my top priority for the Thanksgiving holiday was connection with my family from now on. To make this happen last year, I made several changes. Here they are:
1.I Stopped Doing it All
First, to connect with my kids I needed to stop doing everything. This step is absolutely critical if you do all the work for the holidays too.
So, I enlisted my husband to do more cooking, and my kids had to help with clean up. I also banned all Christmas shopping for myself on Thanksgiving Day, and I picked up a few pre-made items at the store instead of making them. This relieved so much stress and already made the day brighter.
Plus, it was a LOT more fun watching the parade WITH my family too.
2. I Enlisted Question Games
I didn’t want to create more work for myself, so I looked up some easy questions online, like these who’s most likely to questions, never have I ever, and would you rather questions. These were easy to pull out, always resulted in laughs, and made bonding a piece of cake.
We especially loved them before and after the Thanksgiving meal, and the kids even wanted to continue them on a trail walk.
3. I Emphasized Gratitude
It is Thanksgiving after all, so I made gratitude a big piece of our day last year. We filled out thankful leaves and discussed the great things about our family and our lives.
It was uplifting and special to focus on the good stuff. Plus, we all felt that it brought us closer together.
4. We Discussed Experiences
Next, instead of focusing on the stuff we were going to buy for Christmas, we talked about the things we looked forward to and the activities we wanted to do together. This not only helped us connect but it built on the excitement of the holidays. (Driving to see Christmas lights and our favorite movies were top of the list!)
5. We Played Games
And finally, we set aside time to play together. As parents, this rarely happens because we have so much to do. But with our freed up time, we made it a priority to enjoy our time together. This not only helped us be playful but it helped us be present with each other too.
These are the things that truly changed our Thanksgiving experience from ho-hum to special family bonding. I hope you try one out too! When your kids are grown, you’ll remember the moments together much more than the cooking, cleaning, and gift buying that needed to be done. So, go ahead and give yourself this day to truly BE with those you love most.