TV commercials make it look like Thanksgiving is about turkey and pumpkin pie… but it really is about giving thanks.

When you think about it, giving thanks is the second step in the process. First, you have to feel grateful.

Feeling gratitude (and recognizing it when you feel it) is part of our emotional development, and generally begins to develop around age four. As the child grows and their empathy develops, their experience of gratitude deepens, often around the time they’re seven. Canadian parenting expert Ann Douglas’s blog has a great discussion of how gratitude develops and can be nurtured in children, to help them grow into happy adults.

If you have a large family, you may not be able to have everyone physically at the same table this Thanksgiving – but that doesn’t have to mean you can’t celebrate together. All you need is a way for everyone to be able to share their love and gratitude for each other.

One way is to download and print the attached “gratitude cards” (there are two per sheet). You can share them electronically with family members at a distance, and invite them to do the same. Then, everyone fills out a card for each of the other people in the family, sharing with each person what about them we are thankful for. Everyone can fill them out however works best for them – older kids can print theirs, while littler ones can draw pictures in the space (with possible “translation” help from you) or have a parent transcribe for them.

Have everyone send their completed cards back to you (or post them in a Google Drive or Dropbox for everyone to access!), and then everyone can share them by phone or web call at Thanksgiving.

They won’t taste great with gravy, but they’ll certainly feed your soul.