Psychologists advise how to teach children gratitude during the holidays

DURHAM, NC (WTVD) -- Two sisters used their holiday break to give back to others.

Sixteen-year-old Riley and 13-year-old Reece Fernandez spent Monday afternoon at the Durham Rescue Mission.

"I love doing it. It's so much fun," Riley Fernandez said. "It really makes you think about all that you have to be grateful for."

They gave donated toys to kids who would otherwise have gone without a gift this Christmas.

"Their faces are so cute," Reece Fernandez said. "When they see their presents, they are so happy."

For the past eight years, these girls have participated in the mission's toy, clothing and food giveaway after seeing their parents get involved.

Dr. Robin Gurwitch, a psychologist at Duke University Medical Center for Child and Family Health, said teaching your child gratitude by participating in charities will help their overall health and well-being into adulthood.

"Science tells us that when children have gratitude, they actually are have greater life satisfaction," Gurwitch said. They're happier. They have better social interactions."

Gurwitch said children grow up to be more optimistic and have less stress too.

Experts said adults should also be a role model for their children. Express gratitude, thankfulness and respect to others year round. Children watch and will mirror what they see.

Next, praise a young person when they show gratitude and respect toward others.

"We shouldn't force children to have to say thank you, out of fear of punishment or that something's going to be taken away, because that's not how children become grateful or thankful," Gurwitch said.

Psychologists said being present with your child without electronics will go much further than toys or material things. Encouraging them to help others is also key.

If you are collecting food for a food bank, let children help you by gathering gently used toys or clothes to provide for someone else. Sometimes we may do that, but our children don't see it. If they can be a part of the giving process, It helps them understand that they're part of something bigger than themselves.
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