I tweeted this a few weeks ago:
#CallMeOldFashioned but I believe a handwritten note trumps email any day.
It is so true, I think. My brother jokes that I keep the USPS in business, but I take that as a compliment. There is something pretty awesome about getting something in the mail that is not:
a) a bill
b) junk mail
c) a catalog filled with more stuff you should not buy
d) all of the above
I’ve made writing a proper note of thanks a priority with my children for many reasons and here’s how – and why – we do it.
1. The most important part of writing a thank you note? Writing a thank you note. Some people get all wrapped up in what it looks like and then they scribble: “Thanks for the gift.” If you’re going to do that, don’t bother. Instead, make it heartfelt.
2. Use the three-step process: 1) thank the person for the gift/service, 2) tell them how you plan to use it/how you benefited and 3) thank them again. That’s it. You might elaborate more, but that’s the jist of what I teach my children.
3. Ease your children into the process. When my children are really little, I write the notes for them. However, when they’re about 4, I have them sign their own name. At age 5-6, I have them write 1-2 short sentences. At age 7, they write 3-4 sentences and at age 8, they’re off to the races. Not only is a good lesson in gratitude, but a wonderful way to practice penmanship. Yet another lost art. I digress.
4. Sometimes we’ll include an extra with the note – a prayer card, a photo or a drawing. My children have always been lovers of art, so they will often doodle on the card. I think it might be my favorite personal touch.
5. For the actual note, there are lots of paper options. We’ve used fancy store-bought paper, personalize thank yous from places like Shutterfly or Tiny Prints, but more often than not, we use paper at home. It’s amazing what you can quickly create with a stack of old scrapbook paper and a paper cutter. Sometimes, we just use plain white cardstock and add a colored paper circle embellishment with the words “thank you” written on it. Again, it allows the kids to use their noggins and take pride in their creation.
6. Emily Post, the queen of etiquette tells us notes should be written within 14 days of the event. Does she have small children? Or, better still, five children under age 11? We try, very hard, to write them within a week or two, but sometimes, LOTS of times, life gets a wee bit crazy around here. My advice? Do them the weekend after the party/event. We spread them out over a couple of days and it seems more fun and less ominous that way. Emily also shares her tips for writing notes and I think they’re great enough to share.
7. After a party or event, I write down all the gifts and the giver on a sheet of paper. For the older ones, this is fine because they need less prompting on writing the actual note. That way, you don’t forget anybody. It’s been known to happen and I figure if a receiver gets two thank you notes, then they know we really appreciated the gift! For my younger children, I’ll write out a short two-sentence thank you note and leave spaces for the giver’s name and gift given. Both ways work pretty well.
8. Take your kids to the mailbox for the big dropoff! That’s the best part, right?
9. Be positive. I try to remind my kids to think about a time they picked out a gift for a friend and how excited they were to give it. Then, I ask them to consider how they felt when they received the thank you for said gift. If your kids see you grumbling about writing a note, chances are they will, too. That note may quite possibly make someone’s day. Picture their smile when they open the mailbox and see your note sitting inside.
10. Last year, during Lent, I embarked on my 40 notes for 40 days project. I never envisioned just how awesome it could be. Get to note writing, it’s always guaranteed to bring on a smile. And the world most definitely needs more of that.
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