The Lost Art of the Thank You Note
The practice of writing personal thank you notes teaches invaluable lessons to children. Not only does it make them consider a gift they received and the person who gave it, but it also shows them they can pick out a pretty card or paper and actually use a pen or pencil to put their thoughts on paper. Instead of texting.
And we all know how good it feels to see that colorful envelope in our mailbox, cheering up the piles of bills and junk mail. Try sending your own child a thank you note in the mail to give him the chance to feel that special love and attention—then he will understand how happy Grandma will feel when she opens a special envelope she gets out of her mailbox! Plus, sending the note lets her know your child actually received her gift.
Laurie Wilson, retired Reading Recovery teacher, believes in the value of personal correspondence—especially thank you notes. “It’s definitely not a priority these days with social media and texting available,” she says. “All children must be taught to be polite, to express their gratitude in letter form and to address an envelope. Writing their thoughts down on paper takes patience and practice. Children who write make good readers. Children who read make good writers. Writing thank you notes enhances many skills!”
Another tip is to write the notes as soon as possible—but don’t be embarrassed by a note sent a bit late. Gratitude is always appropriate. Take a bit of time to discuss with your child what makes the gift special. For example, is it a book he or she loved reading? An art kit she has made projects with? A toy he can’t stop playing with? Or tell the giver how much fun it was shopping with friends to find the perfect sweater with the gift card. Then have your youngster make the natural progression toward writing a sweet note: “Grandma, you are so sweet to have sent me my favorite book, and I can’t wait to read it again!”
Have your child read the note out loud to hear how the written words will sound to the recipient. Impress upon your youngster how we should strive to express gratitude to people who bring goodness into our world. To children, receiving gifts equates to goodness in their world.
To stimulate your child’s interest in the project, keep fun, age-appropriate materials on hand, such as colorful note paper, crayons, markers, pencils, pens, stickers and stamps. Visit the post office (or USPS.gov) and select fun, themed stamps for your thank you notes.
Writing these special notes actually helps teach children good manners. Likely we all learned when we were young that writing letters of thanks after receiving presents was a polite measure, and we want our own children to do the same. The act of physically writing the actual thank you note makes them think about the thoughtfulness and care that go into buying and wrapping the toys and gifts they receive. This process adds a positive emotional dimension to receiving presents.
As a matter of fact, research actually shows a connection between expressing feelings in written form and experiencing well-being. Children who grow accustomed to writing about what is on their minds—whether in thank you notes or a journal—can reduce stress. If they continue to write for enjoyment or gratitude, they’ll experience reduced anxiety later in life.
Putting thanks on paper rather than using another method benefits children many ways, so don’t let them to miss this life lesson. With a little creativity and togetherness, the learning—and thanking—will be sweet fun.
One more tip: Why not jot down the thank you before playing with the toy or cashing the check? That way, the true meaning of the gift will have full effect!
Judy Goppert lives in Lee’s Summit. She enjoys drawing on her personal experiences to write about the nuances of everything wonderful about life.