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Saying thank you simply and appropriately expresses gratitude for almost every situation – a ride, a small gesture or any kind act. Sending a thank-you note, however, forms a more personal way to express appreciation. Unfortunately, like some adults, most kids dread sitting down and putting pen to paper.

Most often, thank-you notes involve gifts. Handwritten cards tell others that a present arrived safely and convey appreciation for the thought. Written sentiments, however, reflect good practice and usually earn appreciation after parties or special experiences.

As an added benefit to sending a personal message, the recipient of the card – typically a grandparent or family friend – often feels special on opening the envelope. Thank-you notes number among the few pieces of mail guaranteed to please recipients. Once opened, many land a place of prominence on, say, a mantel or desk, and most are shared with other family members or friends.

Interestingly, these messages of recognition also benefit their writers in subtle ways. Sending a note teaches empathy and appreciation. It slows kids down and creates opportunities for them to think of others. Also, kids who understand and demonstrate gratitude tend to enjoy more satisfying lives and stronger relationships than those who don’t.

No matter a child’s age, writing thank-you notes remains an important skill for parents to teach. Messages needn’t be publishable masterpieces or deeply emotional expressions. A good note is simple and, most importantly, sincere.

With children still too young to write, parents should pen such expressive notes with the little ones by their side. Even if children haven’t yet learned to write, they still can participate. Parents, explain why you’re writing, discuss what to say and have your son or daughter create a picture or, if possible, add a signature.

Preteens, meanwhile, can indeed send a proper note, but most still need guidance. Schedule time, parents, and coach them on writing. Encourage personal expression versus a canned message from a Google search. Once he or she signs the note, provide support so he or she intrinsically comprehends the value of personal connections.

Although most teens understand writing thank-you notes to be the right thing to do, they still benefit from caring encouragement. Check that your emerging young adult has everything he or she needs and knows what to say. More importantly, politely ask when the note will be written, to help ensure prompt delivery. Although the adage “better late than never” still rings true, timeliness matters more truly.

In today’s tech-driven world, an email or phone call often expresses sentiments improperly. In such situations, not only is sending a handwritten note the polite thing to do, but also it’s the “write” thing to do. Children and parents alike should recognize how notes of appreciation make a gracious way to express caring, as well as a lifelong skill that never goes out of style. 

Prior to going into private practice as a psychotherapist and learning-disabilities specialist, Russell Hyken, Ph.D., Ed.S., M.A., LPC, NCC, worked for more than 15 years as an English teacher, school counselor and school administrator. Visit him online at ed-psy.com.

Prior to going into private practice as a psychotherapist and learning-disabilities specialist, Russell Hyken, Ph.D., Ed.S., M.A., LPC, NCC, worked for more than 15 years as an English teacher, school counselor and school administrator.

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