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The gratitude jar

In sunny South Florida, we cannot mark the change of seasons with a cool breeze in the air or the crunch of leaves at our feet. Instead, we see the Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks and scarecrow crafts coming home from art class, and we assume the fall holidays are not far behind.

Which means I get to pull out my jar. 

My children wait with anticipation as I carefully lift the glass container out of the storage bin, longing to capture a glimpse of what has become one of our favorite family traditions. The Gratitude Jar.

The kids scramble for the markers, anxious to be the first to get their colorful little slip of paper into the empty jar. My husband and I watch and wait, knowing our time will come as soon as the kids’ excitement wanes. We all take our turns, slowly and carefully writing the first of many things we are thankful for, knowing that over the next several weeks, our little jar will be filled to the top with messages from the heart.

And on Thanksgiving Day, after the turkey and pumpkin pie have disappeared, we pass around the jar, taking turns pulling out the papers and reading them aloud.

“I’m thankful for my stuffed animals,” my littlest one reads aloud. “I’m thankful for mommy and daddy, and also for Legos,” my 8-year-old declares. And on and on it goes, around and around, words of thanksgiving being poured over our family on the one day we set aside to give thanks.

As my little ones turn into middle-sized ones, I am increasingly burdened with desire to fill them with all the goodness I can while they are still young and impressionable. The gratitude jar forces us all to slow down for a few minutes each day, which is not an easy task for two rambunctious little boys and their often tired, overwhelmed parents. We struggle with practical ways to instill the values and truths our family holds so dear, never wanting to cram it down their throats, but instead, being very intentional with the lessons we choose to impart.

And being thankful is one of the best lessons we can pass on.

As we approach the season of thanksgiving, how do you teach your children gratitude?

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About Dr. Kristie Rivers, Bundoo Pediatrician

Dr. Kristie Rivers is an Attending Physician, Assistant Medical Director of the Pediatric Hospitalist Program, and Director of Pediatric Medical Education at a children’s hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She cares for hospitalized children and also teaches pediatric residents and medical students.

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