Yes, Kids Can Handle the Real Thanksgiving Story. Here’s the How-To.
One of the many challenges of parenting is juggling all the things. It’s really a bold endeavor to become a parent. We’re obligating ourselves to raise a tiny human to the best of our ability, providing them with basic necessities, then teaching, encouraging, and loving them. All while doing those same things for ourselves as we grow into parenthood.
Most parents want more for their children than to simply help them survive, but also to help them ultimately become good people in the world. There’s many ways to go about that challenge. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it can stump us, not because we aren’t good ourselves, but because we’ve already been raised with preconceptions about the world. If we want our children to be better and bolder citizens of the world, we may need to question our own notions. One of the ways we can do that is to consider how we learned stories of cultural traditions and history - like Thanksgiving.
We wouldn’t be “bad” parents if we maintained the traditions and story as it has always been - revolving around the friendship between pilgrims and “Indians”, colorful crafts and potlucks. But perhaps when we share the true story of Thanksgiving, we’re offering an expression of gratitude for our children. For them to know the true story could mean a more empathetic approach to living and interacting with others who are different from them.
If you’re up for the challenge, here are a few ways to go about it.
- Read it for yourself. If you don’t already know the true history of Thanksgiving, take some time to learn about what really happened. It’s fascinating to learn a less sugar-coated version of any story.
- Read it together! Consider this source for some insightful reads with your children. This “Cool Mom Picks” article shares the top books that are appropriate for toddlers to pre-teens. Yes, your littles will likely ask questions that might be tough to answer. Reflecting on the questions and potential answers together is part of the process. Resist the urge to avoid their inevitable questions. Even if you feel like a fish out of water, you can explore it together.
- Get active. Become an ally by seeking out Native American businesses to support. Buy something specifically from them, even if you could get it on Amazon. It could be for your own family or as a gift to someone else. Find an age-appropriate craft or activity that incorporates Native American culture such as dreamcatchers, jewelry, spears and instruments.
- Practice gratefulness. Knowing what you’ve learned about the original Americans (i.e. “Native Americans”), you might find yourself out of your comfort zone. And that’s okay. Sitting with discomfort can transform you for the better. If you’re not already, taking time as a family to intentionally express gratitude for the people, places and things in our lives can be a meaningful way to spend time together. Being grateful improves our general well-being, regardless of age, and it doesn’t have to start and stop with Thanksgiving.
Littles are never too little to learn the real story. You’ll likely be surprised at how engaged they are and what responses they might offer. There’s more to Thanksgiving than pumpkin decor, donating canned goods to the hungry, turkeys with stuffing and 21 days of thankfulness. They can handle it - probably better than adults!
So what about the school curriculum? Most schools still aren’t diving into the truest version of Thanksgiving history because they aren’t expected to. This one is still up to the caregivers. That’s a hefty responsibility, but having the opportunity to learn about anything, even tragic historical truths, makes home a safe space to grow in awareness about others and ourselves. That’s something to be thankful for - the chance to raise a more thoughtful generation. #babyboldly