Writing thank-you notes teaches children to appreciate holiday gifts

The Baltimore Sun

With Hanukkah under way and Christmas coming on Thursday, Baltomommie asked if it's really necessary to have her children write thank-you notes for holiday gifts, or whether they can just dictate their thanks or call. "I want well-mannered children who express their appreciation, but the thank-you notes are always a struggle!"

Joan Grayson Cohen, a licensed clinical social worker at Jewish Community Services, says thank-you notes teach important lessons. "These include being gracious about receiving gifts and valuing the gesture of gift-giving," she wrote in an e-mail. "Writing thank-you notes also teaches children to think beyond themselves and to make the giver feel appreciated. Taking a little time to express thanks teaches the protocols of civility and consideration, which can be transferred to other situations later in life, such as writing a note after a job interview."

Fortunately, Cohen offered some tips about writing those notes that should make this act of appreciation more fun for everyone:

* Choose a method appropriate to your child's age. Younger children who can't write might draw a picture. They can dictate their thanks and Mom or Dad can write down their words. What a wonderful opportunity this is to begin teaching your child to write his or her name!

* Find alternatives to writing. A child who can write but for whom writing is difficult (or who is resisting) can design his or her own stationery, cut out a picture of the gift from a magazine or the box and tape it in the note and/or draw or paint the gift in the thank-you note.

* Make the task manageable. Don't be a perfectionist about grammar and spelling. The thank-you is more meaningful when it looks like it comes from the child. Brief notes are fine. If a child receives many gifts, space out the notes by writing a few each day.

* Consider e-mail. Be open to different methods of expressing thanks. Today, e-mail is acceptable.

* Share the thanks you've received. Give your child positive models by sharing appreciative notes you have received, showing how much the thanks means to someone else.

* Plan ahead. Purchase thank-you cards with your child before the holidays (there's still a little time). This will set up the expectation that notes will be written for gifts received - another way to minimize the conflict.

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