Writing thank-you notes teaches children to appreciate holiday gifts


December 22, 2008|By KATE SHATZKIN

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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