Thanksgiving is a chance for kids to learn some low-key lessons about life

WASHINGTON — School may be out over Thanksgiving, but there’s plenty kids can learn over the holiday, parenting blogger Leslie Morgan Steiner told WTOP on Wednesday.

Steiner, who writes for, said kids of any age can learn lessons over Thanksgiving.

Little kids, she said, can pick up “a lot of essential manners.” The holiday is a great time to teach and learn about “how to be a good host or hostess,” Steiner added — “how to take somebody’s coat, how to offer them something to drink, how to make sure that they are having a good time, how to share your toys.” And if you and your kid are guests, they can learn “not to complain about the house or food or situation in public.”

The holiday may also be an opportunity to talk about how “certain relatives don’t get along and don’t like to be with each other and talk about how that’s negotiated,” she said.

As children get older, the lessons can get more serious.

For one, there might be a lemons-from-lemonade opportunity to talk about “what is going on if somebody is drinking too much, and has a problem with that,” Steiner said. And kids can also learn to stand up for themselves on the question of whether they “should hug relatives who they don’t like.”

“It’s their body,” Steiner said; “they get to make the rules.” Parents can come up with low-key ways to greet relatives differently, including a handshake, a comically exaggerated air kiss or a high-five. “And also … say to them that you’ll back them up.”

Steiner added that Thanksgiving is underrated as a dangerous time for young drivers: “We always think about New Year’s Eve as being such a terrible time, but … the whole [Thanksgiving] weekend, is really dangerous as well. Because we have a lot of relatively inexperienced drivers coming home for the holidays, coming home from college. They’re very excited to see their friends; they’re out late at night; there might be alcohol involved, or drugs.”

It’s a good time, she said, to reinforce the basics: No substances before driving and no getting into a car with a driver who has. “And that you’re always there for them if they need help.”

The final lesson of Thanksgiving: Things go wrong. People spill gravy; someone drops the pie, or someone steps over the etiquette lines outlined above. Steiner’s solution is to correct the situation “at the time with some kind of humor and kindness to everybody involved.

“And just remind them that life and family and holidays are not meant to be perfect, that it’s messy, and it’s OK if the pumpkin pie falls upside-down on the floor and they dropped it, it’s all right. That that’s what makes life really memorable.”

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