November 2022

Caring/Kindness/Gratitude Issue 2022

10 Tips for Raising Grateful Kids

How to help kids show (and feel) appreciation

Saying thank you is one of the first social rules many parents teach their children, and for good reason. We want our kids to be appreciative and not take things for granted, and learning to be grateful can improve kids’ relationships, ability to empathize and overall happiness. If you are looking for ways to reinforce the importance of gratitude or would like to find other meaningful ways your kids can show appreciation, here are some tips:

1.   Set an example

Kids learn a lot from watching their parents. Show them what it means to be grateful by offering a genuine “thank you!” to a waitress who serves your food, a helpful neighbor or someone who holds the door open for you. But don’t stop there — include your kids, too. Thanking children for doing things that are helpful, even when they are chores like putting away toys, reinforces the behavior and lets them know they’re appreciated.

2.   Point out generosity

Call attention to it when people (including your kids!) do things that go beyond what’s expected — helping without being asked, being especially thoughtful or taking extra time to do something because it’s important to someone else. Send the message that you will notice if they knock themselves out for you or someone else.

3.   Have a talk

For some kids, especially young children or those who have trouble understanding emotions, it can help to have a talk about how showing appreciation makes other people feel. Try asking your child how they feel when people say thank you to them for doing something nice and then how they feel when they don’t. Going over their own feelings will help them understand how their behavior affects others and make it easier for them to understand the emotional benefits of being grateful.

4.   Find fun ways to say thanks

There are lots of ways to show gratitude. If your child isn’t comfortable talking to strangers or has a hard time expressing themself in writing, work together to come up with a different way for them to show their appreciation. They could try giving a smile or a thumbs up if someone holds the door or show grandma how much they love their new coat by drawing a thank you picture (or taking a smiling selfie!) instead of writing a card.

5.   Share the love

Encourage kids to think of people who help them, from coaches to neighbors to the local firemen, and say thanks with cookies or cupcakes. Making them and giving them are fun, and they help kids see how connected we all are.

6.   Put things in perspective

Talk to your kids about those who are less fortunate. Don’t scare them, but don’t keep them in the dark, either. Understanding that not everyone has the same advantages will help them develop compassion for others and gratitude for their own privileges.

7.   Let kids choose

Encourage kids to turn their interests into action. Whether it’s a fundraising drive at school, a bake sale or a run for charity, expressing their interests and using their skills for a good cause is a great way to boost their confidence and give them a chance to give back at the same time.

8.   Get involved

If kids are too young to go alone or aren’t comfortable dealing with strangers solo, make giving back a family affair. Find places where you can volunteer together or let your child choose a charity to donate to. Giving and gratitude go hand in hand, and doing it as a family will bring everyone closer and help you make some great memories.

9.   Make gratitude part of bedtime

When you tuck them in at night, ask your child to tell you three things they’re grateful for. Even if they’ve had a bad day, it will help them—and you—end each day on a positive note.

10.  Give kids credit

Be mindful of the fact that your child may have their own way of expressing gratitude, even if it doesn’t fit your expectations. Different kids communicate in different ways. For example, your child may be more comfortable giving a hug than a verbal thank you or might show their appreciation by helping out around the house or drawing you a picture. Tuning in to your child’s unique way of being thankful will let them know that even as they’re learning new ways to give back, you see and appreciate the thoughtful person they already are.

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Planning Thanksgiving Made Easy

When it comes to event planning, there are two types of people – those who get more excited with event planning and the prepping process and those who start to stress the minute invitations go out. I am usually the first type, but sometimes, life creeps in, and things need to be simpler. Over my years of hostessing, I have developed what I call my menu complexity matrix. It breaks down each course into the amount of time and effort, and I can choose depending on what is important to me and what I need the day to be.

CourseSimple and QuickMediumComplex
AppetizersCheese and crackers and veggie trayBuy premade appetizers and warm up day ofMake appetizers from scratch ahead of time, rewarm day of
DrinksSoda and water, wine and beerIced tea, warm apple cider, lemonadeSignature cocktails and mocktails, garnishes like oranges, apple slices and cinnamon sticks
TurkeyBuy premade from restaurant or grocery storePrepare in a cooking bag without stuffing and with pop up timerBrine ahead of time, bake, smoke or fry – create centerpiece with stuffing coming out of bird
SidesOrder in advance, open a can, buy premade… keep it simplePick the most important sides for your family and only make thoseTry new recipes (or old standards passed down), make things from scratch
DessertGet a pie from the storeChoose a few desserts – buy some and make some (Costco makes the best pumpkin and pecan pies, and these have become my standard)Family recipes, a variety of options – we have tried many new desserts that we have come to love. This year my son-in-law is making a homemade cheesecake, and I am making toppings out of fruit I grew myself.


Other items to consider include:

Guest List – depending on your capacity, only invite the number you can handle.

Decorations – Tablecloths can be fabric or disposable. If you are having a group of messy people and toddlers, a vinyl tablecloth will do. Decorations can be simple or more elaborate. They can even be whimsical. My kids love dinosaurs, so we sometimes have a gold T-rex on our table at holidays.

Plates and Utensils – No need to get out the good china unless you want to use it. I love the plastic plates and gold or silver utensils that are sold in stores, at Costco and on websites ( is one of my personal favorites.) It is the company around the table that matters, so whatever you have works. Personally, I dislike spending tons of time doing dishes after the meal, and often my guests insist on doing them, and I dislike that even more. I am ready to sit in the living room with a cup of coffee and watch either a football game or a holiday movie while half the crowd naps.

Serving dishes – Whatever I decide on my menu, I plan it out, scope out what I own about a week before Thanksgiving, decide what I might need and head to the thrift store. It is a great way to get serving pieces with character without breaking the bank. I also love that most thrift stores are either charity supporting or owned by local residents, giving me the knowledge that what I pay is staying in the community. If time is short and you find you need something to serve, online stores with quick delivery and even the grocery store can provide that necessary serving piece.

However you pull together your holiday, remember to be grateful for the people who share your table and those who are missing you and sending you love this holiday.

Want to share your holiday traditions? Head on over to our Facebook page at, and let us know what you love to do on your Thanksgiving holidays! We would love to see your pictures also.

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Volunteer Opportunities for Your Family

Looking for a place to volunteer as a family?  We have compiled a few organizations that have volunteer opportunities.  Please visit the links for more information.


Clay County Opportunities:  The website lists the current opportunities that are available:

Clay County Animal Services:

Clay County Government Opportunities:

Episcopal Children’s Services:

Town of Port Orange Events:

YMCA Volunteering:



Rotary Club of Flagler Beach food distribution:  Look on their calendar for food distribution dates.  When you click the link, the address will be given to you.

Tammy Tant Memorial Surf Classic:

The United Way of Volusia and Flagler:

Provision Packs – weekly set up or weekly packing – must sign up on the website at:


St. Johns:

Costumers with a Cause:

Habitat for Humanity:

Kiwanis Club of St. Augustine:

MuraBella and Shores Animal Hospitals:

St Augustine Humane Society:

St Augustine Wild Reserve:


Daytona Dream Center:

Daytona Playhouse:

Marine Discovery Center:

The United Way of Volusia and Flagler:


All Counties:

Beach cleanups – search by city

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Raising Compassionate Children

Let’s face it, parents; the past two years have been difficult for everyone. Your schedules have been upended by Covid restrictions, and your child’s learning has been impacted in many ways. You’ve worked hard just to get through daily life with the realities of a pandemic.

So, it’s possible that some of the concerns you’d normally have for your child’s social development have paled in light of your concerns with reading, writing and math learning. Still, we all want our children to know how to be kind, caring and compassionate individuals. Further, we worry about the bullies of the world and what their anger and frustration may mean in the lives of our kids.

Kindness and compassion don’t just happen; they’re learned behaviors. We begin teaching a baby about compassion when we nurture them and care for their basic needs with love and tenderness. Later, we monitor any aggressive behaviors with reminders to be gentle and to “use your words,” and we teach the language of kindness toward others. As our children grow, our means of teaching them healthy emotional responses to others grow and become more sophisticated.

Here are ways you can be intentional about teaching your child to learn compassion:


From the moment your baby was born, you’ve cared for his or her needs. You fed, cuddled, bathed and diapered. You played games, sang songs and showed your love and care in a thousand ways. Your child has been the recipient of countless compassionate gestures. A child whose needs have been met is much more likely to be open to showing kindness to others than those who have been neglected or abused. Your modeling of loving, kind behaviors is the foundation upon which you build your lessons on becoming a compassionate person. Good job.


Take the opportunity to point out kind behaviors observed in your daily lives. Look for the person who shares, the one who waits his or her turn or the person who helps when someone is hurt. Talk about those incidents and encourage your child to verbalize what they’ve seen. “Did you see that Matthew helped Jason when he fell and hurt his knee? Why do you think he did that?”

Encourage your child to look for kind behaviors and report them. The evening meal is a good time to share positive reports. “Who caught someone being kind today?”

When conflict arises in your child’s sphere, take the opportunity to talk about the problem and brainstorm solutions. “Why did John become angry and walk away? What else could he have done?”

Talk About Showing Compassion

As you watch television or movies, point out the characters who show compassion. Or, point out  unkind, negative behaviors and explore why they occur. “Why is that boy so angry?” or “What is that person feeling right now?”

Encourage pretend play that works on conflict resolution. Your teddy bear seems very upset. Can you show some kindness to him?”


Include giving or volunteering in the life of your family. Be sure each member has a part to play. Helping at a shelter, feeding someone who is hungry and giving time, energy and resources to those in need shows your children that you value the comfort and well-being of those around you.

Children are open to talking about how sad it is that some people are homeless or others don’t have enough to eat or toys to play with. It’s healthy to have those conversations, especially when you combine them with positive actions.

Care for a Pet

When your children are old enough, allow them to take on the responsibility of caring for a pet. The daily feeding and watering, walking and general clean-up involved in caring for a pet is a wonderful way to teach kindness.

Read Books

Find appropriate books for your child’s developmental level that speak directly to showing kindness to others. The topic of bullying and why it happens is also part of this discussion. Those who haven’t received love and nurture may be the ones acting out to hurt others.

Here are three titles on learning compassion for young children:

Kindness is My Superpower by Alicia Ortega

Listening with My Heart by Gabi Garcia

Leo Learns About Kindness by Anthony Domenic Lalicata

Make it Visible

Some families like to create a visible demonstration of the importance of showing compassion. They may label a jar “Our Kindness Jar” and fill it with written observations of acts of kindness. “Mom let a woman go in front of her in the grocery line,” or “I stopped to help Linda when she dropped her books today.”

Another tangible idea is to wear a kindness bracelet that reminds the wearer to do a kind deed. When the kindness is accomplished, the bracelet is turned over to show a smiley face.

Sometimes we wonder how we can make any difference in a world filled with unhappy people demonstrating unkind behaviors. It’s good to remember that we can only change our own behavior and not that of others. But we can teach our children to be caring, compassionate individuals. One kind act has a way of encouraging others to show kindness as well.

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Teaching Kids About Boundaries

Why empathy and self-awareness play a major role


For most parents setting boundaries for young kids’ behavior is second nature: No hitting. Don’t interrupt. We don’t grab toys out of other kids’ hands.

But as they get older and social interaction gets more complex, it’s not enough to just learn the rules. They need to learn to set boundaries for themselves and respect those of others. And that takes being able to recognize what others want and need — and express what they want and need, too.

“Boundaries are essentially about understanding and respecting our own needs, and being respectful and understanding of the needs of others,” explains Stephanie Dowd, PsyD, a clinical psychologist, “and for that to work, we need to be putting a big emphasis on helping kids develop greater empathy and self-awareness.”

Why is empathy important?

For some parents, the idea of teaching children who haven’t quite mastered the art of tying their shoes to be more empathetic might seem a little absurd. But you can help them slowly build an awareness of others. Kids may not grasp the subtleties of what it means to be empathetic, but they don’t need to.

“You’re not going to sit down with a 4-year-old and say, okay, this is what empathy means,” says Rachel Busman, PsyD, a clinical psychologist. “What we want is for kids to start developing that awareness of how others are feeling and begin using it as a kind of guide for how to behave.”

And at the same time, we want to help kids get comfortable with articulating their own feelings and setting limits, even as they respect others’ limits. That takes practice.

How to help kids develop empathy

“Empathy is something we think of as being very adult,” says Mandi Silverman, PsyD, a clinical psychologist. “But in reality, by age 3, most kids will instinctually show concern for a crying friend or realize when someone has a “booboo” and want to give it a band-aid.”

Younger kids often learn best by experience, she explains, so parents should start by addressing problem behaviors when they happen. “Social skills coaching is always best when you can do it in real-time,” she says, “They’re more likely to remember what to do in that situation and be able to replicate the behavior next time it comes up.”

Luckily (or not), most kids offer ample opportunities to practice intervening in the moment. For example, “How do you think Mark felt when you took his toy away?”

If your child grabs a reluctant friend, you could encourage him to think about how his friend might be feeling and why asking before touching is important. “It’s important to ask before touching someone else because that person might not be feeling well, or they could be in a bad mood and not want to play just then.”

Sometimes kids’ egotism can be a helpful tool, says Dr. Busman. “Ask your child to think about how he feels when his sister won’t let him play with her friends or won’t share her dessert. Then ask how he thinks she’d feel if he did the same.”

Using your child’s feelings as a mirror for others can help create perspective — and give them a chance to link actions to the feelings they cause.

Rules work both ways

One way to help kids understand why it’s important to follow rules is to see them as reciprocal.

People are in charge of their own bodies, and it’s not okay to touch them if they don’t want you to, just like it’s not okay for someone to touch you in a way you don’t like.

Sometimes things that seem fun to you are not fun for the other person. “A kid might want to jump on his friend’s back because that sounds fun,” suggests Dr. Busman, “but if he doesn’t take time to ask if the friend is okay with that and doesn’t make sure he’s ready, someone is likely to end up getting hurt.” And that person could be you, too.

Listening when people are talking, especially when they’re giving instructions or asking us to do something, or not do something, is how we stay safe and make sure other people are safe, too. If people aren’t listening to you, they won’t know what you need or want, either.

Practice setting boundaries

Learning how to be more empathetic can be a big help for kids when it comes to social interactions, but it’s equally important to help your child learn to advocate for themselves and their boundaries when other kids are being pushy, aggressive or just thoughtless.

Helping your child make a plan for what to do when someone isn’t respecting their feelings or boundaries will give your child the chance to practice standing up for themselves.

For example, you could ask, “What are some ways you could let Jeremy know you don’t like it when he hugs you without asking?” Go over some simple phrases your child can use to advocate for themselves: “Please stop.” “I don’t like that.” “It’s my turn now.”

Make a list of Get-A-Grown-Up scenarios. Examples could include:

  • Hitting, pushing or even a kid who’s just playing too rough
  • A child who won’t take no for an answer
  • A situation where they feel unsafe or uncomfortable. For example, if their friends want to climb a fence into someone else’s yard or are playing too close to the pool

Helping kids get comfortable advocating for their boundaries early will help them do so in the future when the stakes can be much higher.

Model behavior

When it comes to learning anything, kids look to their parents for cues on how to behave, and empathy and self-awareness are no exception. If you want instructions to stick, it’s important to practice what you preach.

“We want parents to be demonstrating the kind of behaviors they want their kids to emulate,” says Dr. Busman. “You may be speaking to your partner or a friend, but that doesn’t mean your child isn’t paying attention and picking up signals on how to think, how to act and how to interact with others.”

When kids hear parents checking with each other to see if they’re on the same page before they make decisions or asking a friend how they feel — and really listening to the answer — kids are more likely to follow suit.

Find, and discuss, examples

Another way to make empathy part of the conversation is to draw on kids’ favorite media, pointing out examples of good or bad behavior. For example, if a character on TV is being bullied, try asking: “How do you think he felt when the other kids called him stupid? Is it ever okay to call someone something like that?”

Niki Kriese and her husband Mat started doing this early on with their two sons, Simon (4) and Felix (6). Niki says her family often relies on examples from books, movies or TV to help get a conversation going. “The other night Mat was reading an old Berenstein Bears book to the kids,” she says. In the book, the bear family was trying to decide how to spend the day together.

Halfway through, Mat stopped and asked the kids, “Hey, has the mother said one word so far?” The boys agreed that she hadn’t. When they’d finished reading, he noted that at no point in the story had anyone asked the mother bear what she’d like to do or if she was having fun.

“Do you think your mom would like that?” he queried Simon and Felix. The boys shook their heads.

“Would you?” Again, the answer was no.

The object, Niki explains, isn’t necessarily to start a deep discussion but rather to help her sons develop curiosity about how others are thinking and feeling. “Obviously, they’re not processing it in the same way we do,” she says, “but the hope is that we’re setting them up to think critically and empathetically as they get older.”

Embrace diversity

Another key part of instilling empathy is making sure kids are interacting with people who are different from themselves on a regular basis. “It can be hard for kids to make the jump from how they feel when something happens to how someone else might feel about the same thing,” says Dr. Busman. “And sometimes that’s especially hard when the other person looks or behaves differently than they do.”

One thing that encourages acceptance of differences is activities that give your child the opportunity to play with kids from different backgrounds, races and physical abilities who share common interests.

It also helps to demystify kids of other genders as early as possible. “What we don’t want is for kids to hit puberty and still be viewing the opposite sex as an alien species,” says Dr. Dowd. Parents can help by making sure activities provide ample opportunity for girls and boys to play together and collaborate on an even playing field.

Respect limits on offering affection

Kids should be allowed to decide for themselves if and when they want to show affection. “Grandma may be expecting a big hug when she comes over, but we want kids to understand that things like hugs and kisses, whether they’re getting or giving them, should be a choice,” says Dr. Busman.

Parents should avoid pushing kids to be affectionate when they’re not comfortable. But forgoing grandparental smooches doesn’t have to mean being impolite. “Come up with something else your child can do instead,” suggests Dr. Busman. For example, instead of a kiss on the cheek, she could pick something she’s more comfortable with, like waving or shaking hands.

Take your kids’ limits seriously

Really listen when your child tells you what is and isn’t okay with them, and take their requests to heart whenever possible. It sounds like a no-brainer, but Dr. Busman explains that dismissing children’s boundaries is often something grown-ups do all the time without even realizing it.

“If a child says she hates being tickled or picked up, don’t say, ‘Oh come on, you don’t really hate it.’ Instead, say, ‘I hear you, and I won’t do it again.’”

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