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Have you ever met a child (or an adult for that matter) who likes to write thank you notes? It is an unwritten rule, a valuable tradition, to acknowledge a gift promptly. A handwritten note is really a gesture of appreciation for the item and thoughtfulness behind it. Thank you notes make the giver feel good and reinforce the importance of gratitude in today’s society. Letter writing is not only a tradition, but a skill that will serve children well into their adult lives.

You may be thinking that all of that makes sense, but how do you get your child or teen to actually write a note, without it turning a source of a battle. Here are some age appropriate tips to make the process go from a chore to a pleasant experience.

  • First and foremost, as an adult, you must set the example. If your children see you writing thank you notes, they will come to realize that this is the right thing to do.
  • During the early years, of course, you will do the corresponding on the behalf of your infant and toddler.
  • 3 to 5 year olds need to be involved in the process even though you as the parent will be doing the majority of the writing. Make this a fun activity, explaining that Aunt Sally really spent a lot of time picking out the birthday present and how special that is. Tell your child how thrilled Aunt Sally will feel when she receives a note telling her how much the gift means. As you write the note, explain what you are doing and why. Leave space for your child’s scribbles or have him/her draw a picture of the gift. If your child can write their name, include it at the end of the note. Recipients of these notes will count your young child’s efforts as special treasures.
  • 6 to 10 year olds can be much more involved in the actual process. Your child will think it fun to have personalized stationery. Set aside a time for the family to write their thank you notes (Christmas evening, perhaps) or sit down and write a note to a friend as your tween tackles his/her thank you notes. Be sure to be encouraging and give ideas about what to say and how to say it effectively. Let your tween use self expression instead of creating a scripted letter. Add some music to the mix and have fun.
  • Teens have the ability to write thank you notes themselves. You should be sure that they have stationery, pens, address books, and stamps – all the necessary tools. The real trick here is to get your teen motivated to write thank yous. If you began this process in the early years, he/she will know that thank you notes are a given expectation in your family. If not, you may have to resort to bribery or whatever works for you. Although not exactly proper, an email note of thanks is better than no thanks at all.

Just one more thing… the gift they didn’t want. We have all gotten them! Your children will need to learn how to deal with them properly. Since all gifts should be acknowledged, remind your child that it really is the thought that counts, not the item. Have your 13-year old write Aunt Sally, thanking her for the game of Chutes and Ladders emphasizing how much he/she appreciates her remembering their birthday. A younger sibling, neighbor child or a charity will also appreciate the "regifted" game.

If your children need further incentive, just tell them that the best way to ensure a gift next year is to write a memorable thank you note for one this year.

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