Teaching gratitude: 7 tips for writing thank-you notes with kids.
No more than 36 hours after giving my grandmother her birthday gift did I receive her Thank You card in the mail. I’m pretty sure she was writing it as my car pulled out of her driveway.
My grandmother taught my sister and me from a very young age that Thank You notes are not only polite, but expected. Common sense tells you this is true. If someone thinks enough of you to spend their time and money to treat you, the least you can do is send them a proper note of appreciation.
Although, asking kids to sit down and write thank you notes is an entirely different beast. Here are some tips for making this task manageable until it becomes habitual.
#1 Explain the meaning in a way kids understand. For most kids, this exercise will be immediately viewed as an unpalatable chore but if you can explain how showing your gratitude makes someone happy and feel loved, that’s an emotion that will resonate with them.
#2 Yes, it should be handwritten. It would definitely be much easier to have your kids shout out a “thank you” over the phone to Nana for the birthday gift, but it just doesn’t carry the same weight. If you get the kids in the habit while they’re young, they’ll come to expect it as part of receiving a gift.
#3 Make the task age appropriate. For kids learning how to simply write their name, let them decorate a card with markers and stickers. For kids 5-7, two or three sentences will nicely suffice. Kids 8 and older can get a little more detailed and expressive. It’s not necessary to write a book, it’s the quality of the sentiment that counts.
#4 Always have a box of Thank You notes on hand. It’s much easier to manage the task of handwriting a Thank You note when you actually have some. I love finding cards at Marshall’s or Home Goods where they have kid-friendly designs for all aesthetics and are normally under $6 for a box. Also, if you want to be obscenely organized, keep a book of stamps with the cards. Now you have zero excuses.
#5 Personalize the message. One of my son’s early Thank You cards had this message inside, “Thanks. Love Jones”. While I appreciated his pithiness, it left me feeling a bit empty. To make the giver feel a little more appreciated, I make sure that during a birthday party or Christmas that I keep a log of the gifts received so we can specifically mention the item in the note.
#6 Teach sincerity. We all want our children to understand the importance of being authentic and genuine so help them express their appreciation in a way that says, “Thanks for the pajamas—they’re so soft and will be so warm this winter” instead of, “Thanks for the pajamas you gave me.”
#7 Send out a thank you note within one week. Asking my kids to sit down and write Thank You notes is about as enjoyable as listening to a classroom of 2nd graders simultaneously play Hot Cross Buns on their recorders—but it has to be done. If you have a bunch to write, set aside 15 minutes a day for the kids until you’ve written them all. Also, it’s never too late to send a thank you note even if it’s quite delayed. A belated thank you is way better than no thank you at all.
After all, don’t we all look forward to receiving something in the mail other than a bill or sales flyers? Thank You notes are a wonderful practice and can truly make someone’s day. I love that.
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