Rebekah posed this question on Facebook yesterday:
“Do you write thank you notes for Christmas gifts? Do you expect them?”
And, of course, I replied. I told her that yes, I did. And no, I no longer expect them– and that’s pretty sad. (For the record, we do receive a fair number of them– my parents, my sibs, and my best friend are very good about them. So there is that.) But we give out many more gifts than that… and hear nary a word about them.
If you, like me, think that it’s a sad thing for people to have given up on the polite act of thank you writing, I have a few tips for you to ensure your own kiddos keep the tradition going. My kids don’t bat a lash at writing thank you notes and two out of three of them often mention it before I even bring it up!
Keep thank you cards on hand at all times.
Let’s face it– most of the time, we know when to expect gifts. There’s no excuse not to have thank you notes at-the-ready around birthdays and Christmas. I buy several packs at a time and restock anytime the stack gets a little low. That way, I never have the “oh, we don’t have a thank you card!” excuse to toss out. I just grab one and do it.
Write them very soon after the occasion.
Speaking of just doing it, that’s my next tip– write them soon after receiving the gift. The more time that goes by, the less likely you, and your children, are to do it. Consider how much longer a week is to a child, too. By January 14th, Christmas is a distant memory. Have the cards ready and just get them done. Prompt gratitude is a real and rare treasure these days!
Allow them to help choose or make the cards.
I’ll be honest– I buy our thank you cards. I know that we’re more likely to get them done in a timely manner if we use pre-made. Some people prefer to get crafty. Either way, let your kids be involved. I make sure to have a wide array of cards on hand and I always let them choose which they’d like to use. You’d be amazed how much joy a simple thing like CHOICE can bring to a child!
Help in age-appropriate ways.
When your littles are really, really little, you have to do most of the work, for sure. Ask your child what he loves most about a gift and write that down. Have her describe how she felt when she opened it. Try to let their words shine in your writing.
For preschoolers and kindergarteners, I typically write a “fill-in-the-blank” card for them to complete. Something along the lines of:
Thank you so very much for the ______! I love the _____. I bet it will be so much fun to _____. Love, _______.”
By first or second grade, many children can write the notes independently. If not, I’ll write a script on a separate paper and have her copy it into the card in her own handwriting.
Let them see YOU writing them.
People often say the best way to raise a reader is to read to them often. While that’s definitely a great thing to do, numerous studies have shown that the best way to raise a reader is to be seen reading frequently. Same goes with thank you notes. If you want your child to learn that writing them is just “what you do”? You need to do it. Be a great example.
Praise them for initiating on their own.
One day, with all this groundwork set, your child might come to you and say, “I need to write a thank you note to so-and-so for…” fill-in-the-blank. Acknowledge his kindness. Praise him for having such a thoughtful response. Remind him how good it feels to be the recipient of gratitude and tell him you appreciate that he’s showing his thankfulness in a tangible way.
Does your family write thank you notes? How do you encourage your children to put their gratitude on paper?