Writing thank-you cards

Writing thank-you cards has become somewhat of a lost art these days.  I remember when I was growing up, my Mom insisted that we write them to each of the people who had given us a gift at Christmas.  I’m sure my siblings and I grumbled about it, but I know that it really meant a lot to the recipients (when my Grandma died and we were going through her stuff, we found a box with all of the cards and letters we had written to her over the years).

I have carried on this tradition, because I think it is important that my daughter learns the importance of saying thank-you and being appreciative of what she is given (it is too easy to take things for granted).  I remind her of the time the giver took to purchase the gift for her, and how a note of appreciation will only take a few minutes of her time.

My daughter doesn’t exactly look forward to this task (i.e. there are many things she would prefer to be doing), but the right thing to do is not always the most ‘fun’.  Having said that, there are things that can be done to make it a little less onerous.  Given that this doesn’t require a huge amount of concentration (you are asking them to write a simple thank-you card, not a Nobel prize-winning speech), my daughter enjoys listening to some music while she works.  In addition, I don’t require that all cards be completed in one sitting, although there is definitely something to be said for getting it done as soon as possible.  I give her a ‘deadline’ to work towards (if it’s left too long, it loses its meaning) and then give her the freedom to do it when she pleases, without nagging (that’s my plan, anyway).

If you’re going to have your children write thank-you cards, then you’re going to want to keep track of who gave what (once they get a bit older, your children should be responsible for this).  This list can be handed to your child who can then cross each name off when their card has been completed (it gives them a feeling of accomplishment and helps them keep track of where they’re at).  Seeing a list of the gifts they received also acts as a bit of a ‘reminder’ of what they got and of how lucky they were.

When my daughter was younger, she sometimes made her cards, but that can get a bit overwhelming (she usually has around 12 – 14), so I have no problem with purchasing a package or two of Thank-You cards at the dollar store (I take her with me and let her choose the ones she wants).

I leave the message to her, but it should include a reference to the actual item that the person gave her, not just a generic “Thank-you for your gift.”  People like to know that you remember what they gave you and that you appreciate it.  If the individual gave money, it’s always nice to indicate what you spent it on or, if you haven’t spent it yet, what you plan to possibly spend it on in the future.  If you have multiple children, they can all write a little note of thanks on the same card (especially if you are planning to send it in the mail, where multiple stamps could get a bit costly).

I realize that this is but another task at an already busy time of year, but teaching your children to express their gratitude is well worth the time!

If you’re interested in teaching your children gratitude, you may also enjoy my posts Saying thank-you and Be thankful.

Saying thank-you

Where I live, the school year is just wrapping up and it can be a very chaotic time.  There are all sorts of field trips and assemblies going on, and kids receive ‘awards’ for their academic and athletic achievements.  All of that is great, but my daughter’s school does something else that is a refreshing change…they celebrate the school volunteers by formally saying thank-you.

They invite anyone who has volunteered in the school, including members of the Parent Council, those who have attended field trips, individuals who have helped in the classroom, the library or in any other capacity, to the school for an “Appreciation Coffee Hour’.  Coffee, punch and cookies are served and a slide presentation where they have ‘caught volunteers in the act’ throughout the year, is shown.

The best part of the hour though, is when they have the primary kids come in and do a little ‘performance’ and hand out a small gift of appreciation to each volunteer (last year it was a school magnet and this year a school water bottle).  Children in other classes have also drawn pictures showing their appreciation, which are provided to the volunteers as keepsakes.

I have to admit, initially I was not going to go to this special event, as there just seemed to be too many other things to do (isn’t there always?).  However, I was at a Parent Council meeting and the principal of the school said something that changed my mind.  She said that even if you don’t think you deserve to be appreciated (e.g. my daughter’s teacher this year did not want volunteers, so all I did was belong to Parent Council), go anyway, so that the students can learn how to say thank-you.

What a great idea!  After all, teaching kids appreciation is a very worthwhile life skill.  Even if some of the children who participated had very little direct interaction with the volunteers, their teachers had spent time explaining how important volunteers were to the school and why every student should be grateful for them.

Not every volunteer that had been invited could make it to this event, but those of us who did, were very glad that we had made the effort!

Another way for kids to show thanks and to ‘give back’, is to have them go through their toys and give away what they don’t play with anymore, to children who are less fortunate.  For tips on how to make this process a little less painful for both you and your children, see my post entitled “Teaching kids to declutter“.