How Healthy, Happy Families Celebrate Thanksgiving

Posted by: Jane Albin

For a few hours on the fourth Thursday of every November, families across America gather to celebrate Thanksgiving in all different ways. Some traditions include watching a parade, running a race, playing a friendly game of football, cooking, eating (and sometimes napping!) together.

Female family members laughing together on a couch.


It’s common for children to learn about gratitude through this holiday, but there are many more teaching moments that happy and healthy families have shared.

Here are just a few ways that you can strengthen relationships and support healthy youth development on Thanksgiving:

  1. Create Family Traditions

    If you don’t yet have your own traditions, ask family and friends what they enjoy most about getting together over Thanksgiving (ex: 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.

  2. Invite Someone Who Doesn't Have Plans

    Be mindful that Thanksgiving may be a lonely holiday 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.

  3. Give Back to the Community

    Thanksgiving is a great time to volunteer as a family. Serving meals to others, making and delivering a Thanksgiving basket, or spending time making handmade holiday cards for troops abroad are opportunities to teach the importance of empathy and creating joy for others.

  4. Take a Break in 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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 Thanksgiving season.

Looking for more tips?  

To access more tools and resources that support family engagement, email me.

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The YMCA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.