Teaching Children To Write Thank You Notes

If your kids don't like to write, you may have to help them craft a thank-you note for special gifts and thoughtful acts.

Many children today no longer practice the time honored traditions of etiquette and courtesy that our society has valued since its beginnings. Some cultural developments such as films and music fostered the "me" generation with an emphasis on the self over others.

Yet saying "thank you" is still the right thing to do. Teaching children from a young age to express appreciation to others helps to lay the groundwork for a thoughtful response to others. Receiving a holiday gift from extended family or friends, being invited to spend a few days or take a trip with those outside the immediate family, or getting to go to a special event are examples of occasions when a thank you card is appropriate.

Rather than write a note for your children, teach them how to create personalized expressions of appreciation, an important step toward effective communication skills that will be needed in adulthood.

1. Provide cards or stationery with postage that the kids can readily use. Or better yet, let them choose their own cards to get them involved right from the start. You may want to keep a writing box of materials, such as stationery, greeting cards, pens, markers, and perhaps even crayons for a small color graphic in an accessible location. Children can learn at a young age that communication is fun and important.

2. Find them a comfortable place to sit where they can think about what they want to say, and how to write it. Be sure the lighting is good and the kids have nothing more pressing to do for the moment, such as the distraction of an impending television show or the interruption of a neighbor child asking to play.

3. Suggest they write a draft first on scrap paper if the note is to reflect their strongest abilities. If not, encourage them to write small and neat letters and to plan the message before putting it on paper. You may want to run your finger across the card or paper to show where the words might go. Decide whether to help with spelling or let the kids write their way. Some recipients enjoy a child's fuzzy scrawl, errors and all, while others might want to see a letter-perfect version.

4. Teach them how to fold a letter or tuck a card into its envelope. Then help them glue it shut and address the front of the envelope. Posting a return address and a stamp are the final steps, of course, which many children enjoy. Then walk them to the mailbox for inserting the card to be picked up by the mail delivery person the next day. Or take a drive to the post office for a special mailing.

5. Verbally praise your children for their time and effort in sending a tangible thank you of this type. Add an explanatory message about how good their written comments will make Grandpa or Aunt Helen feel. You may even recommend their sending a holiday or birthday card to friends or family to further exercise and strengthen their writing abilities.

Taking time to show appreciation need not become a dying art. When parents patiently train their children this valuable skill, it may well get passed on to future generations to ensure that civility never dies.

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