Are your kids grateful? Really grateful? How can you help them learn this abstract skill?

Jon Lasser, a psychologist and associate dean for research at the College of Education at Texas State University, and his daughter, Sage Foster-Lasser, a senior at the University of Texas who's double majoring in psychology and American studies, have written a book "Grow Grateful" to help kids learn this concept and help parents and teachers explain what gratitude is.

It's their second book together. When Foster-Lasser was in high school, they wrote "Grow Happy." Magination Press, which publishes other social emotional learning books, published it. After teachers and school counselors picked it up and it did better than expected, a series was born. A third book, "Grow Kind," is expected next year.

Lasser and Foster-Lasser will read from "Grow Grateful" and have activities about gratitude Saturday afternoon at BookPeople.

Adults might see a book about being grateful as a perfect tie-in to a certain holiday with turkeys and pumpkin pie, but expressing gratitude is more than sitting around a table and saying what you're thankful for this year.

"Once a year isn't enough," Lasser says.

It also goes beyond writing thank-you notes for gifts, though that's a great habit to have. It's about being in tune with the feeling of gratitude and being in the habit of expressing those feelings.

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"Gratitude has been well-studied," Lasser says. "It's associated with general well-being ... we know it's good to be grateful."

He cites one study in which two groups of people were told to make a list. The treatment group made a list of things they were grateful for. The control group made a shopping list. The treatment group felt better afterward.

Being grateful also teaches kids to think outside themselves. Children early on are very egocentric, he says. The book is designed to help them think beyond themselves and give them the vocabulary to do that.

In the story, Kiko is on a school field trip without her parents as chaperones. It's a camping trip, and she has to rely on her teacher and her fellow students to help her, and she has to, in turn, help them. The book teaches kids to be grateful for help they receive as well as to be grateful for the beautiful sunrise. Kiko takes the concept of gratitude and makes it much more concrete because kids can identify with someone their age having to rely on others, Lasser says.

At the end of the book, Lasser offers questions for parents or teachers to ask, such as:


What makes you feel grateful?
Can you think of a time when someone did something nice for you?
Let's think of someone we can help. Do you have any ideas?
I wonder how (insert name here) would feel after you helped him/her?

The book also has activities it suggests such as volunteering with your child, creating a gratitude poster collage, making a gratitude visit in which you deliver a letter expressing gratitude to a person, and identifying gratitude when you see it or feel it and encouraging your child to do the same.

Be grateful to share your gratitude with your child, and be grateful when she expresses gratitude back.