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Giving Thanks All Year Long

November 23, 2011

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - 'Tis the season for giving thanks, but for children, the focus is often more on what they may get than give. Many parents may be wondering how to teach their children about gratitude - with a lesson that can last longer than the holiday season.

Dr. Rochelle Harris, a pediatric clinical psychologist with Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, says gratitude is all in the attitude. She says positive interactions shape behavior more effectively than negative interactions.

"Kids have lots of disappointments throughout a routine day or over the course of a week. How parents help them think about those disappointments can make a difference in terms of their general feelings about themselves, and what they think is working well in their lives."

Parents, Harris says, need to model a behavior of gratitude, teach children to give back and show acts of service, and make it routine - whether at mealtime or bedtime - to ask children what they're grateful for each day.

Don't worry, she says, if your young child gives thanks for a present.

"There is a real developmental progression in terms of kids' ability even to articulate gratefulness for more abstract things. So parents can shape or model that over time."

Having your children write thank-you notes is a way to express gratitude, not only for presents but for acts of kindness they've experienced as well.

Heather Claybrook, Public News Service - MO