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Teaching Gratitude

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A few weeks ago, I was mindlessly unpacking groceries when my two-and-a-half year old son delightfully cut through my daze. He had spotted a special treat I had picked up for him at the store and started gushing, "Thank you, Mommy! Thank you SO much!" Then he skipped over and kissed me on the knee. Whoever thought Goldfish crackers could illicit such bliss? I was beaming. For all of the times I've wondered how I'm doing at this motherhood thing, moments like that make me think maybe I'm cut out for the job after all. Teaching gratitude is a big priority in my book and I had no idea it would be so easy for both my kids to absorb the simple lesson. I do believe it's got to be an ongoing effort. With Thanksgiving around the corner, I started looking into creative and modern ways to build on the foundation. How do we keep instilling in our children the importance of being appreciative and expressing that sentiment? How do we teach them to be thankful for the small things -- and the big things, too?

Here are four fun and easy ways to keep the conversation going beyond the upcoming holiday:

Share, Share, Share
As a mom of two very busy preschoolers, I am forever on the hunt for ways to entertain my kids, especially in the late afternoon. So when I heard about The Acme Sharing Company, I had to check it out. It's a very cool blog by Los Angeles mom Meredith Alexander devoted to sharing ideas with fellow parents about how to raise socially conscious kids. Alexander, who also founded the charity, Milk and Bookies, says it's never too early to talk to kids about the Golden Rule. On her blog, families can find all kinds of suggestions for fun ways to "spend family time with meaning."

"A great little kid activity is baking cookies and bringing them to your local fire station. Talk to your kids in the car about what firemen do and how they help and protect us," suggests Alexander, who reminds parents that kids learn by example. "There are so many ways to give back. It all starts at home and it all starts with sharing... sharing yourself, your time, your energy, your smile," she says.

Give Gifts That Give Back
Whether it's a birthday, a great report card or just because, you can give your child a gift "certificate" that allows her to donate to the charity of her choice. Markmakers.org is a non-profit organization in which adults can purchase gifts that kids can use to "shop" for goods & services in need around the world. They can spread their funds among more than 40 needs/causes such as vaccines, medicine, & eyecare, or saving animals, rain forests & coral reefs.

Party With A Purpose
Children's birthday celebrations can be an opportune way to help kids learn about gratitude and giving back. The party planning website Echoage.com was started by two Toronto moms who wanted to find a way to make their children's b-day bashes more environmentally friendly and purposeful. Using Echoage's e-invitations, parents and kids can choose a charity and ask guests to donate to the cause in lieu of buying a gift. "It was truly borne out of a need that we witnessed as mothers," says co-founder Alison Smith, a mom of two. "There is a way to make this (birthday parties) a meaningful experience and a way we can impart our values to our kids and make the world a better place," she explains.

Thank you emails, Skype calls and texts
The technology is new - but expressing a heartfelt thanks never goes out of style . Your little one is never too young to say thank you...or watch you show your appreciation. I underestimated how much my children would absorb the message just by putting them on the phone with Grandma and Grandpa or doing a video call with our family overseas. With all of the digital tools at our fingertips, you can make it a fun activity to tap out an email or better yet, scan a thank you picture they've drawn or send a video.

Please share your ideas for teaching kids about gratitude. And for more thoughts and inspiration about motherhood and the pursuit of wellness in mind, body and spirit, please sign up for my weekly email, The Well Mom Have a safe and meaningful Thanksgiving holiday!

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