Teaching Gratitude Through the Holidays: Why Thank You Notes Are So Important

thank you notes for kids
Image via Angela England

Teaching our children an attitude of gratitude is part of our job as parents, but it can be especially difficult during the holiday season. With a constant focus on wish lists, presents, parties, and Santa, kids can get in the “gimme” mindset. So how do you find the balance between “the magic of Christmas” and not developing bratty attitudes?

For us, the main thing is to cultivate an awareness of gratitude, reminding kids that people give them presents, not because they deserve them, but out of love and appreciation. We want our kids to realize that no matter what the actual present is, the gift was given in love, and that’s what we should be especially grateful for.

{ MORE: 6 Activities to Teach Little Ones Gratitude }

I think the tradition of writing thank you notes, whether for birthday presents or Christmas gifts, is an important one for helping kids realize this. Yes, it can be tedious to write them, especially for newly literate little ones, but the process of writing a thank-you note helps them pause and consider each gift and each giver of that gift. 

Helping Your Kid Writing Thank You Notes

There are some ways you can make the thank-you note process less tedious for your kids, depending on their age. The first is to keep accurate records for them. Whether you use a Notes app, or a little notebook, jot down each gift and who gave it as they open their birthday or Christmas presents. I can't even remember who gave me what at the end of a big event, so we definitely cannot expect our kids to remember everything.  

{ MORE: Why My Child's First Year Changed Me }

Little guys can draw pictures. If you act as the transcriptionist, you can simply write “Dear Grandma, thank you for the car.” with a drawing of a car by your preschooler. Grandma will love it, and your kiddo gets to color. It's a win/win, right?

For just-learning-their-letters age kids, you can limit their writing to a single word. So this time you write, “Dear Grandma, Thank you for the cool _________ you gave me.” and let your child write the word “car” in the blank. This keeps it very doable for them so they don't get overwhelmed, yet it adds the personal writing practice. And if you're homeschooling, you can call it penmanship practice. Hurray!

Older students may do better with some guidance. For my independent readers who still stress about writing, I give them guidance. For example, for Evan's birthday party recently, I helped him craft a full, three-to-four sentence thank-you note, and I wrote out what he dictated. He could then write the thank-you notes in his own writing for each person, all the way through from the “Dear, Chase” to the “Thanks, Evan.” I let him put his notes on top of his composition notebook to help him keep the lines straighter because he is used to writing with lines. Huge success!

{ MORE: I Was the Perfect Mom ... and Then I Had Kids }

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Once your kids are comfortable writing on their own, and know the process of doing thank-you notes, they will be able to do them on their own. Establishing these habits of gratitude at a younger age will help them continue the habits as they get older!

Do you make your kids do thank-you notes? How do you help make them less overwhelming? 

What do you think?

Teaching Gratitude Through the Holidays: Why Thank You Notes Are So Important

Angela England is a renaissance woman who doesn't let five children stop her from many pursuits, interests and tasks. Angela is a freelance writer, professional blogger, speaker, labor doula, massage therapist and can usually be found with a coffee nearby. Angela recently published her first book, Backyard Farming on an Acre (more or less) and has since published her first Untrained Housewife Guide - Getting Prepared. ... More

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1 comment

  1. Micah says:

    Great article……Since I found out that two of my good friends put a family Christmas card of Facebook this year instead of sending them in the mail, I’m thinking that there are probably a lot of people who skip thank you notes too. My parents WANT me to skip them since they know the time and aggrevation it could take with 7 children. However, I will continue to get them done as close to the new year as possible….and the kids love drawing the pictures and going back over the gifts. My oldest girls (9,11) write a few sentences and then draw a scene with captions for each person! Priceless!

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