Note: A Version of this post first appeared in Dec 2011
Ah. The day after Christmas. Boxing Day if you are in a Boxing Day country. Personally I think Boxing Day is a great idea… why don’t we have Boxing Day? Or just celebrate St. Stephen’s Day? While gifts have been unwrapped and put away and paper and the packaging has been cleared away; the kids are already clamoring with the eternal question: “What can we do??”
Thank You Notes. Time to write the Thank You notes.
What?! You may think that Thank You notes are antiquated and a throwback to the dark ages before we had stuff like email and unlimited minutes and instant gratification but that is what makes Thank You notes (or letter writing, in general) is fine art that transcends all social and class lines. It really can be the great equalizer! Writing a note by hand allows you to put to paper human emotions: joy, sorrow, gratitude, love, nostalgia. And if you think about it, those (and anger) are among the first emotions we learn to articulate verbally.
Gather your supplies:
- Paper or Notecards
- Address Book
- List of gifts and their givers (if needed)
In general, a thank you note should have 5 characteristics:
- Generous. Send the note even if you’ve already thanked the giver in another way.
- Specific. Mention the gift but thank them for the THOUGHT behind it.
- Prompt. Send the note right away, but don’t let lateness stop you from writing at all.
- Succinct. Keep it short by writing about any unrelated matters in a separate note.
- Personal. Write it by hand. No form letters, printouts or greeting cards.
Dos and Don’ts
- Thank you so much.
- It’s just what I’ve wanted
- How did you guess I wanted a [the gift]
- I am enjoying wearing, playing with, looking at, eating, listening to, reading [the gift]
- You were so thoughtful, kind, generous (unless you’d be lying.)
- Thank you for the gift** (this may imply to the giver that you have forgotten what they gave you or that you lost the gift.)
- You shouldn’t have (sounds a bit trite)
- Thank you for dinner. (Unless you did JUST meet for dinner.)
- I’m exchanging it. [Wow.]
- IT’S THE BEST GIFT EVER!! [makes you sound a bit insincere.]
**There are two general exceptions: A) When the gift is money in some form. In that case, thank them for the “gift” but then be sure to tell them what you are planning to do with the gift. B) You have received multiple gifts from one recipient. In this case, thank them for the gifts and mention a few specifics.
What about the Kids?
If you have taught your kids to say “thank you,” you can teach them to write thank you notes! When it comes to kids, you have a new options:
For the first five years, or so, you can write on your child’s behalf. I, personally, write in the child’s voice.
For an older preschooler, they could dictate to you what to write or copy a few lines down that you have written for them (if they can write their letters) or they can write their name at the end of the note.
For older children, help them enjoy writing notes by employing some of the following tactics:
- Schedule time together to write. We all know how kids fare better when they know what to expect and when, so set aside, in advance, a set an hour or so on a specific day to write notes
- Support your child. Give your child their very own stationery and special pen. Make sure your child has all of the needed addresses or address the envelopes for them as they write the note.
- Personalize it. If you child likes glitter, stickers, stamps, or the like, let them add the embellishments to their note.
- Model. Your child will not want to write thank you notes if they do not see you writing notes. Just as your child sees you saying “Thank You” in person, let them see how that gratitude is translated into a thank you note. Make sure your child sees how enjoyable RECEIVING thank-you notes is by reading the notes you receive aloud and posting them.
- Join them. Sit down with your child and write something as well: your own thank-you notes, journal, a letter, etc. If nothing else, it’s helpful for your child for you to be there, to offer support with spelling, advice and phrasing.
- Have the gift at the ready. Kids are concrete. They remember the here and now, so it might be helpful for to have the gift in front of your child when they write. Ask your child how they felt when they received the gift. If they were not too keen on the gift, ask them to imagine how happy Auntie was picking out the gift for them.
- Reciprocity. Help your child understand the pleasure people get from being thanked by making sure they know what it feels like to give a gift and then receive a thank-you note. If you write a thank-you note to your child, it is a concrete example of how thank-you notes make people feel. And how cool is it, as a child, to receive a thank-you note from a grown-up?!
I hope this takes some of the scare out of writing thank-you notes and encourages you to start a new tradition of your own!
Merry Christmas and Until Next Time!