Writing a thank-you note is something more than just an obligatory action. It is an expression of gratitude and acknowledgement of generosity. It is an opportunity to show someone else how much you appreciate their thoughtfulness. How often do we take the time to let someone know that his or her actions are meaningful?
Sometimes we all get swept up in the rules established by polite society that we forget the real reason behind them. This year, my children are being given a block of time to sit and write a short note of thanks to those family and friends who took the time to give them a gift.
If you have been celebrating any of the holidays this month, chances are that your son or daughter has received a gift from someone other than you. Do you take the time to have your child sit down and write a short note thanking the person for their gift? You should. Because training your child to write thank-you notes in a timely fashion has many personal, social, as well as educational, benefits.
It promotes thoughtfulness
Having your daughter thank someone in writing for a kindness requires her to first think about the gift. Inevitably, this leads to the realization that someone thinks enough of her to actually buy her something. If the gift is something she really likes, then she can’t help but appreciate the fact that the person probably put some thought into it and gave her something that they hope she might enjoy. Parents, you can encourage this line of thinking by prompting your child with specific questions, such as, “Wasn’t that super nice of [insert name here] to buy you the [name of gift]?” or “I wonder how he/she knew what to buy you?”
It generates good will and develops generosity
Once your child realizes someone has cared enough to give him something he might enjoy, he might value their friendship even more. And as a result, he might put in some extra effort the next time a gift-giving occasion comes along to find a great gift that he thinks might please his friend. Giving a thank-you note to that person reinforces the bond of friendship. Remind your child that everyone likes to be acknowledged for his hard work and kindness!
It supplements writing and grammar lessons
Children in elementary and middle school also benefit academically from writing thank-you notes. This is a wonderful activity that allows them to practice spelling, grammar, and composition skills. Focusing on punctuation, letter format, and writing complete sentences are important skills necessary for effective communication.
Tips for helping your child write thank you notes:
• Make it fun by giving your child his or her own special set of note cards.
• Download free templates online to help your elementary-aged child. These are frequently fill-in-the-blanks (Dear_______, Thank you for the __________. Love, ______), so as not to overwhelm your beginning writer. We like this simple template from Lil Blue Boo for younger children, and these that require more written detail by Delightful Distractions.
• Ask older children to write longer notes, giving details such as what they like about the present and what they hope to do with it.
• Challenge them to write it in cursive. Children in 3rd grade and higher, may prefer to practice their cursive skills.
• Let them use scrapbooking pens in assorted colors to write their notes and add hand-drawn details.
• Encourage them to embellish their cards with stickers, drawings, and ribbons.
Monica Olivera Hazelton, NBC Latino contributor and the founder and publisher of MommyMaestra.com, a site for Latino families that homeschool, as well as families with children in a traditional school setting who want to take a more active role in their children’s education. She is the 2011 winner of the “Best Latina Education Blogger” award by LATISM.