By Christina Katz
Teaching kids to express gratitude doesn’t have to end in tears or tantrums, if you approach the task with an upbeat, playful attitude yourself. Teach your kids to think of gratitude as “thank-you time,” instead of attaching too much anxiety to the task of writing a simple note. Using a simple, relaxed approach, you can teach your children valuable lessons about appreciation that will last a lifetime.
Somebody loves you. Start by reminding your child that needing to write a thank-you note is wonderful in the first place because it means someone loves you enough to give you a gift. Who wouldn’t want to say thank you when you put it like that?
Let preschoolers scribble. Use blank cards and envelopes to get very young children involved in the thank-you note process. Explain what you are creating in a cheery tone, and you will set a great precedent for fun, colorful thank-you notes down the road.
Forget time-pressure. Writing thank-you notes is not a race or a competition. The more pressure you apply to grateful actions, the more angst you instill in the task. If your mother insisted you write your notes within twenty-four hours doesn’t mean that’s the only way. Let the kids write the thank-you notes when you can find some thoughtful, downtime to get the job done well, rather than feeling rushed.
Keep a gift list. This is key at a busy party or event. Keep a clipboard handy to mark down who to thank and why. If someone gives a gift, describe the gift with a few details. But don’t stop there. If someone does a good deed, jot down a few words about the person and the deed. This clipboard becomes your go-to source for a regular thank-you note practice.
Keep cards at the ready. Purchase a greeting-card sorter so you can keep track of all types of cards, including blank cards and homemade cards. Let kids choose the card design they prefer or let them create their own.
Have special thank-you tools. Create a thank-you note kit with special supplies just for thank-you note writing to make the process more fun. Here’s what to put in yours:
- Pens or markers—think glitter or calligraphy
- Stickers or even envelope sealing wax
- Special thank-you-note stamps
Provide writing templates. Neatly handwrite or type up age-appropriate templates for your child to follow when writing thank-you notes until your child learns what is typically is included by heart. Be sure to include:
- A greeting
- A thank-you for the gift or gesture
- What the recipient likes most
- Tell the giver you hope to see them soon
- Say “thanks again”
- Close on an upbeat note
Also provide address templates. Very young children will need to have their thank-you notes addressed for them. Once kids are old enough to write, create an address template for them to follow, including the return address, address, and where the stamp goes.
Encourage self-expression. Teach your children that thank-you notes are a form of self-expression. Add drawings of the gift or gifts, photos of the opening of the gift, photos of the gift in action, photo of your child with the gift-giver, a drawing of the child with the gift-giver. See what ideas your child can come up with and let them use their unique talents and work with what you’ve got on hand.
2-4-6-8, look for folks to appreciate! Don’t merely write thank-you notes for gifts. If someone’s good deed impacts your child, ask if that person should go on the gratitude list. In this way, note writing becomes a celebratory habit, not merely a task to dread after gifts have been received.