Getting Your Child to Write Thank You Notes

Girl (6-7) writing Thank You card, smiling

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Giving thanks is an important lesson to teach kids year-round. What should parents do to help teach kids good manners, build character and show appreciation? Here are some tips to help kids express gratitude that make giving thanks a positive and heartfelt experience.

Discuss the Importance of Thank You Notes

Explain to your kids that a loved one spent time selecting a special present for them, purchased it with their own money, wrapped it up, and then delivered it—either in person or via mail.

Ask them how they would know if someone liked a present they had picked out to help them understand why thank you notes are sent; how it lets a gift-giver know a present has been received and is appreciated.

Provide Age-Appropriate Card and Help Write the Message

For very young children who do not yet write, a crayon picture of the child's choosing created with the gift-giver in mind can be mailed along with a note from a parent saying something like, "Cindi created this for you in appreciation of her gift of a new doll for her birthday."

Budding writers can be given the thank you cards that only require a child to fill in certain blanks. While not as personal, this format encourages a youngster to write a note on their own. While it may only include the salutation, the gift received, and name, it's a great first start! Older kids should write thank you notes on their own.

Allow Kids to Write Their Own Cards or Be Creative in Other Ways

Creativity is always appreciated, but not all kids can put that type of thought on paper. While you may need to step in to help, you don't want the thank you note to sound like it came from you rather than your child.

Kids should be encouraged to send thanks for the gift specifically, but to also explain how or why the gift is appreciated.

Remind Kids That It Is the Thought That Counts

All gifts should be acknowledged—even those that aren't exactly appreciated. A child should be taught that it is truly the thought that counts. A 12-year-old might be embarrassed to open a game for younger children like Candyland, but a thank you is still in order.

Explain to your child that while the game may not be quite what they wanted, it was still purchased in honor of their birthday, a special occasion, or for the holidays.

It also gives your child the chance to be generous: while it may not be the game for them, a younger sibling or a local charity would likely love receiving it.

Discuss Situations Where Cards Are Required

If your child thanks someone in person when opening a gift, a thank you note is not necessarily required, especially when the gift is from a family member. It's still a nice thought to follow-up with a handwritten or otherwise personal thank you note.

Gift exchanges do not typically require thank you notes, nor do small token gifts given to groups—but just because it's not required doesn't mean you should skip the opportunity to have your kids practice.

Likewise, the holidays can present another chance to hone your child's skills for expressing gratitude. You might make it a habit to have your kids to write a thank you note to Santa. You can explain that a proper thank you sent for this year's gifts will assure Santa returns next year.

Explain the Importance of Being Timely

Timeliness is always important when writing a thank you note. You may want to adopt practices that encourage kids to get their note writing done. For example, a toy cannot be played with or new clothes worn until a proper thank you note has been written.

Another option is to require that all thank you notes to be written within a predefined number of days from the gift's receipt. This helps prevent the days from turning into weeks and the note being forgotten in the midst of your family's busy schedule.

Think About the Educational Value of Card Writing 

Teachers and child care providers sometimes have children write thank you notes in as part of a writing lesson. Examples include writing a note to parents to express appreciation for their support during the school year or to thank them for bringing snacks or treats for a special class party.

The holidays also present opportunities for children to express their gratitude, such as writing thank you cards to their parents on Valentine's Day to show appreciation for their love or have them write notes of thanks on Thanksgiving.

Model Good Behavior for Your Child 

You can encourage your child to write genuine thank you notes by making it a family practice. Let your kids see you writing thank you notes and let them read (or hear) what you've written. Remember: one of the best ways to teach your children good manners is by modeling the expected behavior.

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