How to Teach Your Kids to Write Thank You Notes
In this day of instant messaging, texting and emails, the effort of sending a handwritten thank you note to someone communicates an important message of appreciation. By teaching your children to write thank you notes, you are helping to instill a lifelong habit that they will carry into adulthood.
In addition to birthday and holiday presents, have your kids write thank you notes when someone does something special for them, such as a grandparent taking them to the amusement park. “By taking the time to express their thanks, kids focus on the thought and effort the person put into buying them something special,” says Suzanna Narducci, mother of two and founder of TweenParent.com.
Many parents wonder if email thank you notes can be used instead of handwritten thank you notes. Jodi Smith, president of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting, says, “An email thank you note says that you care enough to do the very least.” Smith feels that an email thank you is appropriate when you want the giver to know quickly that your child received or really appreciated the present and should be used in addition to a handwritten thank you note, not instead of it. In the email, let them know that your child received the gift and that they will send them a proper thank you later.
Create a Routine for Writing Thank You Notes
Have your child participate in writing thank you notes as soon as she is old enough to hold a crayon. Smith encourages parents to have their toddler play with the toy while the parent writes the thank you note and for the parent to talk to the child about the present while they are writing it so the child can begin to make the connection. When the parent is done with the note, have the toddler scribble on the note. For preschoolers, Smith suggest that the child draw a picture on the thank you note and tell the parent what they like about the present for the parent to include in the note.
“Once a child begins elementary school, have her dictate the thank you note for the parent to write and then have her sign her name on the card,” says Smith. By age 7, most children can complete pre-purchased or homemade fill-in-the-blank cards and then progress to writing the entire note. Smith reminds parents to take into consideration their own child’s abilities when determining the level of participation and the number of thank you notes that the child can reasonably complete at one sitting.
Some families enforce thank you note writing by having a family rule that you cannot play with a toy until you have written the thank you note for it.
“Simply put the item away until the note is written and make this part of your family routine,” says Debbie Yahn, a counseling psychologist and clinical social worker. For clothing and other presents that the child may not be as motivated to use, you may want to have the child write these notes first before she can begin playing with other toys.
Before Writing the Thank You Note
While your child opens her presents, make a list of who gave her each gift. Make sure that your handwriting is large and legible. Draw a checkbox next to each name so that she can check off that she has finished writing the thank you note.
Smith suggests parents make the process fun. Let your child pick out the stationary to use. She can decorate the envelope with stickers, or personalize blank note cards and have your child decorate the front of the cards with a picture. Smith encourages parents to let the child pick out a special pen to use when writing her notes.
Writing the Thank You Notes
“Be positive and point out how nice it is that the person cared enough about them to get them such a special present,” says Smith. When your child is writing their notes, sit down at the table with them and write yours. “The biggest success factor is for the child to see their parent writing thank you notes,” says Yahn. She also encourages dads do this, too, because it is important for children to see that they are something that both men and women write.
After the Thank You Notes are Written
You can address the envelopes for your child to ensure that the address is legible and the card gets delivered. The goal is for your child to eventually address the cards, but for young children the task of addressing can be challenging and the act of writing the note is more important. Have your child help put the stamps on the envelope and take them to the mailbox with you. Another option is to print address labels and put them on the envelopes together. “Ask a close relative to let your kids know how much they appreciate their thank you note. A little positive reinforcement goes a long way,” says Narducci.
Whenever you or your child receives a thank you note, talk about how happy you are to know that the person appreciated your gesture. By understanding how much these notes are appreciated, your child will be encouraged to develop a lifelong habit of writing thank you notes.
Jennifer Gregory is the mom of two kids and three dogs.