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Teaching Gratitude

I know that I have talked about teaching children self-esteem, resilience, and independence. I find myself now talking to parents and children about gratitude.  Gratitude may be one of the...

I know that I have talked about teaching children self-esteem, resilience, and independence. I find myself now talking to parents and children about gratitude.  Gratitude may be one of the more important character traits to teach our children. One of the best ways to teach our children is through modeling behaviors that we would like them to learn....that never changes.

I think I was reminded of the importance of gratitude while watching one of my patient’s parents deal with their child’s life threatening illness. Their 13 month old daughter (who was fully immunized) developed a secondary infection after the flu which then led to septic shock. She nearly died and has already been in the hospital for almost a month.  She is one of those statistics that you read about....1 in a million kids do this, but once again statistics don’t matter when it is “YOUR” one in a million.  

Throughout her illness and her 20 day stay in the ICU her parents never complained. They were gracious to everyone from the doctors, nurses and medical assistants to the housekeeping staff. While they were devastated by their daughter’s illness (which happened overnight and yes, they would tell you, “You will know when your child is really sick!”) they never stopped being grateful for all of those who cared for her. They thanked each and every person who entered the room to help care for their daughter.  While they were asking, “why my baby?” they continued to be grateful for the many prayers, meals, gifts and all of their friends and family who supported them. They also suffered through many sleepless nights and untold tears, but they somehow managed to endure this experience with grace.

While watching this brave family I also see many other families who do not seem to be able to be grateful for the fact that their child, who may be sick, is “not really that sick.”  Especially at the end of the school year I am often told, “my child can’t be sick right now” , he/she has end of year parties, school exams, extracurricular activities.....(the list is endless) and “they have to attend”. This statement is sometimes followed by the remark, “and you don’t seem to be helping them get any better any faster...”. Unfortunately, many a child’s illness has to just get better with time and not medical intervention.

So, remember to be grateful for the fact that your child while sick, is not that sick. The event that they might miss while they stay home for a day or two probably won’t really matter a year from now. 

Model the grace that you would like them to learn, and along the way they will learn a bit of resilience too.

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About Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Dr. Sue Hubbard is an award winning pediatrician and medical editor for www.kidsdr.com.  She is a native of Washington, D.C. who travelled south to attend the University of Texas at Austin and never left.Read More

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