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Children open up about what kindness and generosity mean to them: "I'm so grateful that I'm accepted at this school"

During this "most wonderful time of the year," many people focus on giving, gratitude and thankfulness. But according to a recent poll from the University of Michigan, 4 out of 5 parents believe children today are not grateful enough. 

At Van Deene Elementary School in Torrance, California, school principal Edith Urzua-Soto makes sure gratitude is part of the lesson plan. 

"We can teach them how to read, we can teach them how to do math. Teaching my students about gratitude and kindness, I'm also contributing to them being good citizens, good people," she told "CBS Mornings" lead national correspondent David Begnaud.  

Urzua-Soto made a "gratitude video" to show her students. The short video pairs animated characters along with lessons of gratitude. She has made certain that every student here has seen this video and it's made an impact on some students. 

"I'm so grateful that I'm accepted at this school. And that I have such wonderful and nice friends," said 10-year-old Alexander Turvey. 

"'I'm thankful for my family. I'm also grateful for being healthy and not having any sickness," Jeffrey Castillo said. 

The students are learning that from the playground to the classroom, kindness and gratitude are more than just words. 

"They said gratitude is like an emotion in your body. Sometimes you can feel happy and sometimes you can feel sad," 8-year-old Heaven Calito said. 

Lessons in gratitude proved especially meaningful to Heaven and her 9-year-old brother, Aydan. They recently reunited with their mother after spending two years with relatives because she could not care for them. 

"I think gratitude means not thinking anything for granted. Like, I wouldn't take my mom for granted 'cause she feeds us, she clothes us, she keeps a roof over our head," Aydan said. "I love her with all my heart and I wouldn't change a thing." 

Their mother, Domonique Young, grew up in foster care because her parents were addicts. She spent two years in therapy learning how to be a better mom and said she wanted "to be different and just stop the cycle." 

Aydan and Heaven are so thankful their mom pushed through tough times. For them, talking about gratitude at school helps them appreciate each other. 

"He's really nice to me and he protects me," Heaven said about her brother.  

"I hated not seeing my mom. It sucked. I would cry a lot. And that's where my sister came in," Aydan said. 

There is research that shows gratitude can unlock feelings of hopefulness. University of Southern California professor Glenn Fox published the first study of how practicing gratitude triggers areas of the brain associated with interpersonal connections and joy. 

"It improves our social relationships. It may improve our sleep. It may lead to faster resilience and a greater sense of optimism," Fox said 

"Can gratitude make you a nicer person?" Begnaud asked. 

"The research shows that indeed, practicing gratitude can make us more polite, more kind, more altruistic," added Fox. 

Urzua-Soto also makes weekly videos of her students and their achievements that are shared at Monday morning assemblies — something that makes kids at Van Deene Elementary School grateful to have her as their principal. 

"I'm thankful for my principal, which is a 10 out of 10," 9-year-old K'yon Hill said. "I am also thankful for my teacher who always teaches us and helps us get to college." 

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