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Give your kids the write stuff

My home mailbox can be dull. 

In fact, a lot of days it’s simply empty. Most of what we get is junk – advertisements for businesses we don’t even need (sorry Chewy, we don’t have a dog) – or bills. Opening the mailbox can be a depressing experience. 

I wondered if I was alone in missing snail mail, so I asked my friends if they missed it too, or whether we were now conditioned to communicating electronically and/or getting nothing but unwanted mail.  I was surprised to find that most of them also wished they found more interesting paper mail.  

One piece of mail I still send, and I make my daughters send, are handwritten thank you notes. And no, I’m not looking for applause. I was curious, however, whether the written thank you note is still desirable or if it’s passé in this age of email. I rarely receive any, written or electronic, so maybe they are just hopelessly old-fashioned. 

Again, I polled my friends, and most do appreciate receiving thank you notes. Some are happy with a text or email; one said “a sweet video from kids” thanking her for a gift really makes her day and takes the same amount of effort. 

I have a confession to make: though I believe thank you notes are important, I struggle with writing them. I’ve always had this opinion that my note had to be perfectly witty and different every time, as though people I have thanked before will remember what I said. With that in mind, I’ve tried to make it easier for my kids. I’m still searching for ideas, but here are a few that work. 

  • Keep it simple. While Annabelle, 6, can copy writing pretty well, I tend to have her draw a picture on the front of the card, and then I write the message and have her sign her name. Sophie, 9, has graduated to writing her own, but I let her know it’s fine to keep it simple so she doesn’t share my writing anxieties. 
  • Encourage creativity. I have found blank notecards in lots of different colors, which gives my daughters choices and is a fun starting point. I keep a stash of stickers and washi tape for them to decorate the card.  
  • Give them guides. I’ll write a list of the people to whom they should send a note, so they can keep track and not have to worry about spelling. There are tons of websites with suggestions on what to write in thank you notes; I use them sometimes, and I’ll either talk through ideas with Sophie or write a list of prompts. Inexpensive packs of cards are available at a dollar store; buy a variety and half the work is done! (The cards are small so you don’t have to write a lot.) 
  • Be flexible. I try to have them send thank you notes as soon as possible, especially if the gift was mailed, but I have learned not to plop the girls down and expect them to write all the notes at once. One friend said she gives her kids a two-week deadline and that seems to be a comfortable range. I’ve also become more flexible with the etiquette; I will text the giver of a mailed gift so they know it has arrived – because I remember my dear late Grandma worrying about whether checks were cashed so she could keep her checking account balanced – and follow up with the written thank you note later. 

Do you have any suggestions, or strategies that have helped your kids write thank you notes? Have you moved into the realm of e-cards?  

And if I haven’t said it before, thank you for reading.  

 

 

Jen Deinlein
Jen Deinlein is a self-professed “Jen of all trades and master of none.” She’s a SAHM to 8- and 5-year-old daughters, a freelance writer (you can also see her work in CPBJ) and head cheerleading coach at Penn State Mont Alto. She and her family live in Guilford Township, Franklin County, with a golf course in the backyard where they frequently rescue lost golf balls. You can reach Jen on Instagram: @groovypq; Twitter: @jlbd77 or by email: [email protected].

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