Heed my mannerly advice: Have your child send thank you notes even before they’re old enough to write! 

I’ve missed the boat on my own advice, a fact I discovered in a conversation with my son, who recently celebrated his 13th birthday. “Please write a thank you note to everyone who gave you a gift,” I requested. The notes were going to two sets of grandparents and three sets of aunts and uncles. Not too taxing a task, right?

I didn’t expect the debate over the importance of a handwritten thank you note. “Why can’t I just call them?” he asked. “How about I just send an email?” he proposed. No and no.

So to all the new parents and soon-to-be parents, here are some tips I wished I’d followed about thank you notes before my son was old enough to give the ever-popular teenage attitude.

1. Explain Why Writing a Thank You Note is Important

At the very least, it lets the sender know the item was received. But it ultimately shows the gift giver you appreciate their thoughtfulness. 

2. Get the Notes Written as Soon as Possible 

If people took the time to remember your child, take the time out of your busy schedule to have your child promptly thank them. But don’t be swayed by a “deadline.” Sending a late note is better than not sending one at all. 

3. Make it Fun

My mistake (besides not starting when my kids were toddlers) was making it seem like a task. At early ages, encourage your child to use stickers, paint, glitter, markers — anything that makes this an activity, not a chore.

4. Don’t Give the Option to Opt Out

Help your kids understand that writing thank you notes is as much a part of receiving gifts as is actually opening the presents. Skipping one year, and saying, “Your grandparents will understand, we’re just too busy this year” sends the message that it’s not important.

5. Avoid the Cookie-Cutter Thank You Notes

My son literally wrote, “Thank you for the gift, I really appreciate it” for every single note. Not too original. Talk to your young ones and have them include why they enjoy the gift. Was it a book by a favorite author? Did they receive a cool art kit with lots of paint colors they don’t have? Have they played the board game three times already? Answers to these questions are details that make the thank you note personal. 

6. Don’t Wait Until the Kids Are Old Enough to Write

By then, it might be too late. You can write notes for your three-year-old and let her begin writing them as she gets older. 

The key is not waiting until they’re too old to want to call or text instead. Follow these tips now. Trust me, you’ll thank me later! 

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