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Parental Guidance: Teaching kids to be more grateful this holiday

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Teaching children to "think gratefully" during the holiday season can carry over into their lives year-round. Before Christmas morning, talk about the effort and thought behind gift giving. Photo Credit: iStock

Q. How can parents help kids be more grateful for gifts they receive this holiday season?

A. Parents can guide kids to "think gratefully," which can carry over into their lives year-round, says Jeffrey Froh, an associate professor of psychology at Hofstra University and co-author of the 2014 book "Making Grateful Kids: The Science of Building Character."

Here's how:

Before kids receive gifts -- before Christmas morning or the visit to Grandma's on Christmas Day -- share the sacrifice and intent behind gift giving. Help children consider how hard the giver thought to find a perfect gift idea and how much time they spent shopping for it, and even what it might have cost them to earn the money to obtain it.

When kids are caught up in the excitement of opening gifts, remind them of the thought that went into them. Say, "That sweater has your favorite character on it, and it's in your favorite color," Frohs suggests. "The goal is for them to experience appreciation right on the spot, in the moment," he says.

Later, parents can revisit the gifts and talk about how lucky kids are to be able to enjoy them with friends. "When you package that all together -- intent, cost and benefit -- what you're really doing is teaching kids to think gratefully," Froh says. "That's absolutely huge."

Froh and co-author Giacomo Bono, an assistant professor of psychology at California State University at Dominguez Hills, recently launched a website with more suggestions; visit staygrateful.co

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