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Teach Your Children the Art of Writing Thank You Notes
Teach Children the Practice of Writing Thank You Notes
In the age of the Internet and email, handwritten notes are in danger of becoming a lost art. When a gift is bestowed, it is important to recognize the thoughtfulness of the giver with a short note of appreciation.
Children, in particular, should be taught to write thank you notes, following birthdays and holidays. Even if they received presents that were duplicated, not age-appropriate (i.e. babyish), or otherwise "uncool," basic principles of graciousness require that thank you notes be mailed to all gift-givers. Ideally, a thank you note should be sent within one month of the receipt of a gift, favor, special outing or money.
This practice is just as important as teaching your children to try foods that are served at someone else's home, and to say "please," and "thank you."
Let's revisit the art of thank you notes!
Lessons to be Learned by Writing Thank You Notes
Writing thank you notes is not just a simple exercise in gratitude. A child can learn other lessons and skills, too:
- Discuss the postal service. How long will it take the letter to get there? Who picks it up? Who delivers it? How much does a stamp cost now? How much did a stamp cost when you were young?
- Improvement in penmanship. Young children up to at least the 4th grade can use extra practice in writing skills. Why not use this fun activity to help them work on signing their name and writing coherent sentences?
- Empathy. Maybe Uncle Mike doesn't realize that your child is 9 years old and not interested in the Backyardigans any longer. Talk about the impacts of distance on family relationships, or perhaps the fact that the relative does not have young children. Teach the importance of recognizing that it is the "thought that counts." Decide if there is a needy child or organization to which the gift can be donated, if not exchanged.
Age Appropriate Thank You Note Writing
As young as age 3, children can start learning the basics of a thank you note. Have your child "draw" a picture and explain that you will be mailing it to Grandma in appreciation for the birthday present. Talk about how excited she will be to open her mailbox and read the letter from your son or daughter. You can even have them place the envelope in the mail themselves to send it on its way.
By ages 4-5, kids start learning how to sign their own name to a thank you note, or even to write beginning words, such as "I Love You," or "Thank You." A drawing of a rainbow or flowers (or whatever else your child is interested in) can complete the note. Discuss how writing thank you notes is a polite thing to do, when someone has gone out of their way to shop for and wrap (or even mail) a present for them. This may be particularly important if your child has received an unwelcome or duplicative gift.
Once your child is in school, you can ask a bit more of them when it comes to thank you notes. Depending on reading and penmanship, have them write at least 2-3 sentences to the gift giver, thanking them for the present and telling them something else about the birthday party or holiday that was special. This is especially necessary when a gift card is given. Be sure to tell the giver what was purchased. Talk with your children about how they would feel if they got a letter in the mail. Link the discussion with one about general manners.
No free pass when they get into middle school and high school! At this point, you can begin discussing with your teenager the importance of thank you notes and letters in the professional job interview setting. Writing notes to relatives will keep them in the practice for a critical life-long skill.
Teach your Children to Write Thank you Notes
Working with your children to write thank you notes and instilling this practice at a young age is an integral part of any parental instruction on basic manners.
You can set them up for life-long success in part by emphasizing the importance of showing appreciation to others in a timely manner, even in somewhat difficult situations (when a gift truly is not what they wanted).
It is one thing to get good grades, but if your child lacks social graces, they could be limiting their own advancement in the future. 10-15 years from now, they could be the candidate that stands out in a positive way! Who knew that two little words could have so much power?
© 2008 Stephanie Hicks