Teaching about Thankfulness While Respecting Cultures

We live in a time when teaching acceptance and tolerance has become a necessary priority.  We try to teach that stereotyping, bullying and scapegoating are wrong.  We teach children to respect the ways in which we are alike and we are different. 

The month of November can be challenging when we are mindful of the messages that we give to children through our actions.  For generations, children in preschools and elementary schools celebrated Thanksgiving by dressing like Native Americans. The Native American headdresses and other clothing are sacred in their community.  They are not uniforms or the clothes worn by characters in a fairy tale.  The clothing has meaning.  Native Americans have written articles, editorials and other documents declaring how offended they are when we have children dress as them.  Unfortunately, some schools and teachers still create their garb. 

It is time that we stop teaching this holiday by dressing like characters and teach the true meaning.  We need to focus on the real lesson.  Let’s face it—the story of Thanksgiving that we all heard as children isn’t entirely accurate.   The real lesson of this month is thankfulness.  We should talk about what it means to be grateful and thankful.  We should talk about how lucky we are to be loved.  We should talk about how we can say “thank you” for all of our blessings. 

This is a great time to year for children to learn to respect that all of us have different traditions.  The children can talk about similarities and differences in their holiday celebrations.  They can create art that is about gathering of family and friends.  They can learn about traditional Thanksgiving foods and what others may eat that are less traditional. 

By the time November and the December holiday season is over, perhaps they will have learned to be a little more aware, a little more thoughtful and respectful of everyone.

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