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Start a Thanksgiving Tradition With Your Child

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Thanksgiving is all about traditions and family togetherness, but if your child has problems with eating, socializing, speaking up or sitting still, it may seem hard to fit him or her into that warm and cozy picture. Resist the urge to just keep your head down, survive the day, and deal with your child tomorrow. Even kids who struggle with routine-breaking special days deserve to have family traditions of their own. Here are five areas in which you can include your child in the holiday festivities. Find something that suits your child's unique strengths and sensibilities, and make it a yearly ritual. It doesn't have to be every family's tradition to be your family's tradition.

#1: Decorate Together

In the peaceful hours before guests arrive, work with your child to make your home a festive place.
  • Take any artwork that's come home from school and tape it to walls, prop it against china cabinets, pin it to curtains, and otherwise deck the halls with paper turkeys and pilgrim hats and cornucopias.

  • If your child has no school crafts, try this familiar one: Trace your child's hand, with fingers spread, and have her color it to be a turkey (thumb is the turkey's head). With a hole-puncher and a length of ribbon, you can transform a bunch of these little turkeys into a festive garland.

  • If your child can write, have him write the names of family members on place cards. Even if she can't write, she can decorate the cards you write with crayons and stickers and decide who gets to sit where.

  • Let your child help you fill a cornucopia with favorite foods -- maybe the traditional fruits and vegetables, maybe less-traditional but more meaningful cookies and soup cans and dried pasta. Use your imaginations, together.

  • Remember that you're not vying with Martha Stewart. Let your child's distinctive personality come through in the decor. See what ideas he or she can come up with for making the house look special, and go with anything you can do safely.

  • For more decorating ideas, see Thanksgiving Decorative Dinners on About Family Crafts.
Next: #2: Plan and Prepare Together
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