Thanksgiving week is set aside annually to recognize and appreciate families and to reinforce and encourage healthy family life and family values. This week as your family gathers for the holiday, take time to reflect on the benefits obtained by being a member of a family and consider ways you can strengthen your family.
It is possible for every family to grow close, to develop more cohesiveness, to become stronger. According to research done by John DeFrain at the University of Nebraska, when people across the country and around the world describe the qualities that make their family strong, they list similar things.
Here is the list of characteristics of strong families identified by DeFrain’s research:
1. Appreciation and affection — caring for each other, friendship, playfulness, humor and respect for individuality.
2. Commitment — honesty, trust, faithfulness, dependability and sharing.
3. Positive communication — giving compliments, sharing feelings, avoiding blaming, being able to compromise and agreeing to disagree.
4. Managing stress and crisis effectively — adaptable, sees crises as challenges and opportunities, growing through crises together, open to change, able to bounce back from stress and crisis.
5. Spiritual well-being — hope, faith, compassion, shared ethical values.
6. Enjoyable time together — lots of quality time, enjoying each other’s company, sharing fun activities and simple good times.
Thanksgiving is a great time to let family members know how thankful you are for them. Fortunately, an appreciative attitude doesn’t cost anything, it takes very little time, it’s always available and it can last the whole year long.
Here are a few quick suggestions to share your appreciation and gratitude at Thanksgiving time:
• Put a note under each person’s plate at the Thanksgiving table, mentioning a specific reason why you are thankful for them. For example, “I am thankful for Aunt Rosalee because she makes the best pies.” Or “I am thankful for the way Cousin Joe makes me laugh.” Before you pass the turkey, have each person peek under their plate to discover why they are appreciated.
• Set a jar and small slips of paper in an easily accessible place. Ask each person to note someone or something they are thankful for and drop it into the jar. After the family meal, designate someone to read aloud all the Thanksgiving thoughts in the jar.
• While lingering over the pumpkin pie, go around the table and have each person tell what they appreciate about their family or what they are thankful for this year. You’ll enjoy hearing what each person has to share.
• If family members are too shy or can’t think of anything on the spot, play “Thanksgiving From A to Z.” The person who starts says they are thankful for something that starts with the letter “A,” the next person the letter “B,” the next “C” and so on. In a small group, add a twist — where each person repeats what has been said before. For instance, “Dad is thankful for apple pie. Grandma is thankful for baking bread. Mary is thankful for her cat, and I’m thankful for daisies.”
• As the family gathers for Thanksgiving, promise yourself you’ll give out at least three genuine compliments before the day ends. The nice thing about compliments is they tend to be contagious. There’s no telling how the appreciation and affection will spread.
Linda K. Beech is Cottonwood District Extension agent for family and consumer sciences.