As we approach Thanksgiving, it’s easy to get caught up in distractions – football games, shopping and the quest for the perfect meal. Instead, make the season about giving thanks for what we have, sharing with and serving others, and celebrating with those we love.

Practice Gratitude

One way to remember your blessings is to acknowledge them. Go around the dinner table and have each person name something they are thankful for. This could be done each night in November or the week leading up to Thanksgiving. For a more lasting idea, have everyone write down or draw a picture of what they’re thankful for. After everyone shares their paper, save them in a binder. Each year, add to the binder and reflect on blessings of the past.

Donate to Charity

Have kids help clean their closets and toy boxes, setting aside items they no longer need. Donate gently used toys and clothing to a local charity. This process will help reduce clutter and, more importantly, will teach kids to be generous to those who are less fortunate. Talk with your kids about how some people may not have coats, hats and gloves to keep warm during the winter months. Collect these items to donate to a homeless shelter. Here are more ways to help:

  • The Community Assistance Center in Sandy Springs has an Adopt-a-Family program during the holidays.
  • Operation Christmas Child provides toys, school supplies and hygiene essentials to kids in need around the world. Pack a shoebox using the website’s guidelines and drop it off at a donation center Nov. 13-20. If you prefer, shoeboxes can also be created online.
  • In addition to helping people year-round, North Fulton Community Charities collects winter coats and food for families in need during the holiday season.
  • Through the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program, families can choose a child and purchase gifts based on a wish list.
  • Clark’s Christmas Kids Gift Drive is a partnership between Clark Howard and the Georgia Department of Family and Children’s Services, providing gifts for local foster kids. Families can shop for a child of their choice online or at participating Walmart stores.
  • Through their Gifts that Give Back program, toys and other items can be donated to patients at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Visit the website for drop-off  details and wish lists.
  • Give a gift to a child in need through Atlanta Marine Toys for Tots. Last year, the organization distributed over 830,000 toys. Find a drop-off site on their website. Toys for Tots also accepts online donations.
  • MUST Ministries, a non-profit that offers assistance to families in Cherokee and Cobb counties, accepts household items, clothing and canned goods at their Marietta donation center. You can also order from their Amazon wishlist.

Take a Break

Have each family member take a break from a luxury they enjoy. This could be dessert, manicures, coffee, soda or a favorite video game or TV show. This exercise reminds us to be grateful for the luxuries that are often taken for granted.

Do a Service Project

Set aside time for a service project as a family. Ideas may include cleaning up trash in a local park, raking a neighbor’s leaves, working at a food pantry, purchasing items for a Thanksgiving meal and delivering them to a food bank or organizing a book drive. When you volunteer as a family, kids see you helping others and are more likely to continue serving as an adult. Serving in an area that your children are already interested in helps create excitement for the project. If your child loves singing, go caroling at a senior center. If your child loves to play at the park, plant flowers or pick up litter. Families can find more service opportunities through Pebble Tossers, an Atlanta based non-profit that helps connect youth with age-appropriate volunteer activities. Their goal is to encourage young people to lead through service.

Gather Together

Encourage kids to think of friends and neighbors who may not have anywhere to go on Thanksgiving and invite them to come for dinner. Discuss the importance of hospitality and welcoming others into your home.

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