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It’s just good manners: Send a thank-you note

Mon., April 2, 2007

Recently, our 10-year-old son gave a birthday gift to a friend at school. By the end of the day, his friend had written a full-page thank-you note. It was impressive – full of appreciation and gratitude. It was done before any prompting from a parent and was a wonderful way to have our present received.

At an early age, kids can learn the value of showing appreciation for the kindness of others. Composing a thank-you letter shows gratitude and instills lifelong values of the importance of appreciating what others do for you.

Not only is a note a sign of gratitude for the gift, it allows the sender to know that it was received. In this age of online shopping, packages get lost. It is reassuring to know that a parcel actually arrived.

When should a thank-you note be sent? Donna Pilato, who writes about party planning, says in an article on that thank-you notes are not required when a birthday gift is received and opened in the presence of the giver. But, she says, a thank you is appropriate when a gift is received in the mail.

For our children’s birthdays, as the guests leave, the birthday child gives out the party gifts and says thank you to each parent and their child. For birthday parties that we have attended, some kids have sent a thank you in the form of a photo taken during the party. This is a great keepsake for a scrapbook.

Is it appropriate to send an e-mail? The Emily Post Institute says that sending an e-mail may be appropriate for someone who you have a casual relationship with and e-mail regularly. Yet for most people, “the written thank you is your best bet for an expression of warm heartfelt thanks.”

What about a phone call? I asked 10 friends and acquaintances, most of whom said they prefer a written thank-you note. Spokane resident Frankie DeWitt, mother of three, grandmother of seven, says, “I treasure the thank-you notes that arrive in the mail. That tells me that the recipient of the gift appreciated the time I took to find/wrap/send a gift, so they take the time to thank me.”

But others appreciate a phone call. Eric Toguchi, my son’s fifth-grade teacher, prefers a phone call. “I think that in receiving a verbal ‘thank you’ the recipient can also convey their genuine sincere gratitude toward the sender. Plus, it also opens the opportunity for more conversation between the parties. Because of the great physical distance, my parents love receiving phone calls from my kids. Everyone can visit longer, tell longer stories, and convey a closeness that written communication can’t extend.”

Phone calls may be just fine for some close friends and relatives, if that’s what they prefer. But if you aren’t sure, it’s probably a good idea to write a thank-you note.

Here are some pointers on helping your young ones to write thank you:

Always engage children in the thanking process. For kids who cannot write yet, the parents can write a thank-you note and the kids can scribble on the page.

As kids learn to write, they can jot down the words “thank you” along with a picture and sign their name.

As age progresses, children can write their own sentences, adding more content to include how they will use the gift and current events in their lives.

Make the letter-writing fun by using colored paper, crayons, markers and stickers. Let the children be expressive. Don’t expect more than what is appropriate for their age. At a young age, there may be some misspellings. But think of the fun you’ll have when their grandmother brings out a thank-you note at their graduation, written when they were 6 years old.

Writing thank-you notes is a lesson that can be learned early and will benefit your children throughout their lives. Hopefully, the values you have instilled in them while under your care will follow them as they venture out on their own.

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