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Teaching Kids Gratitude

Send Thank-You Notes

The strategy: Write appreciative letters to the important people in our lives. "Acknowledging your feelings on paper makes them more conscious and concrete," says Robert Emmons, PhD, author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier (Houghton Mifflin).

A confession: I have always been terrible at this task, and equally bad about making the boys do it. So when I sit down with them one Saturday afternoon for this exercise, I feel like I'm paying penance.

And my sons do make me pay. "Mom, do we haaaave to?" asks Griffin plaintively. "Yeah, c'mon Mom. It's so nice outside. Can't we do this some other time?" asks Will.

After a good 15 minutes of sulking, they finally start scribbling. Griffin writes a note to my father, who is hosting us for a holiday ski vacation. His letter is short, but he embellishes it with a nice drawing of a skier cruising down a steep slope; Grandpa will love it. Will writes to a friend's mom, who often brings him a snack when she picks him up after school.

They bolt out the door as soon as they're done, leaving paper and colored pencils scattered all over the table. I'd like to say the hassle was worth the reward, but I'm not sure.

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