December 1, 2020 — By Wendy Sachs

Thank you cards are becoming a lost art. However, there are so many reasons why it is worth it to teach kids to send these letters. Not only do you get to help teach grace, gratefulness and appreciation, it helps strengthen relationships which is important this year when we can’t all be together. As a bonus, kids get to practice writing skills and help them learn to express themselves more clearly.

There are a few important parts of a well-crafted thank you note. First you start with the basic thank you. Make a list of gifts as you open them so that kids can refer to it and be specific in their note. The next part is why they like the gift or how they will use it. It’s important to use details like my favorite color is red or I will use the gift card for the Super Mario game I have been wanting. Asking kids to find something nice they can say about the gift helps them focus on appreciating that someone took time to choose something specifically for them.

Next it is wonderful to include something about how the gift made them feel. For example, I have so much fun playing with the blocks or I feel fast when I wear the new sneakers. This is more difficult for younger kids sometimes so you may have to ask some questions to help get the right sentiment.

Lastly, it is a great way to close by either mentioning a connection, either past or future. Perhaps thanking them for coming to a holiday meal or mentioning that you can’t wait to see them again soon.

Obviously, depending on the age of the child, thank you notes may be very brief, and experts say that is ok. The important part is that as much as possible the words and feelings should come from your child.

The process of thank you cards is equally important as what they say. Get some blank notecards for younger kids who can’t write yet and let them decorate then they can dictate to you. For older kids, let them choose some thank you cards or design their own. Make a word list of common words spelled correctly so that they can independently do the writing. Make an agreement on when it is time to do the notes, maybe munching on a holiday cookie or sipping hot chocolate while you work. If it feels like fun and not work the kids will be more compliant as well as associate appreciation with warm feelings. Most important, don’t worry about spelling mistakes or a little mess, let the kids use the words they want and truly take ownership of what they are doing.

Thank you notes are not just for holidays and gift giving either. It’s nice to help kids notice other times a note is appreciated. Perhaps having kids send a note to their caregivers or teachers once a year, or for a favor from an adult in their life. Thank you notes should be sent as soon as possible after a gift is received with an expected window of about a month to be on the good side of etiquette. While thank you emails are always nice, a written note is still considered best manners and that is what we all want to teach!

And a little tip, especially this year when we may not be together opening gifts, it is nice to snap a quick photo or video of your child opening gifts from loving friends and family to send to them. Letting Grandma see the joy on her face as she opens the doll is the best way to really show appreciation and love.