When was the last time you received a handwritten thank you note? Or sent one to someone else? How did it make you feel?
Here at Connection Corner we talk a lot about connection. We also talk a lot about gratitude. So, it should come as no surprise that any opportunity to combine both of these amazing things brings me particular joy. Thank you notes are just that! And as we enter the holiday season, we have so many opportunities to utilize them.
Now sure, there are easier and faster ways to express gratitude (thank you text, anyone?). And call me old-fashioned (or just old), but I still think there is something incredibly special about a handwritten note. Knowing that someone took the time to put pen to paper makes it feel more significant, weightier, more notable – quite literally!
And whether or not you agree with that, there are huge benefits to writing a thank you note, for children and adults. Learn more below on the benefits and how-tos of thank you notes below. Then grab your kids and some stationary (or card-making supplies) and start writing!
Benefits of Writing Thank You Notes
- Practicing Gratitude - I know. I know. Recently, gratitude has been so often touted as good advice that you may be sick of hearing about it. But, honestly, it’s for a really great reason – it works!!! There is a boatload of research about how gratitude improves overall wellness…physical, mental, emotional, social, and more.
- Improving Writing Skills – Writing letters is a vital skill for young people. It not only allows them to practice handwriting and grammar, but helps foster the ability to use letters as an important communication tool, now and for the future.
- Encouraging Pro-Social Behavior – Did you know that pro-social behavior, an action intended to help others, is an indicator of youth thriving? Though you may not have put it in those terms, you probably did know that. We all want our kids to be kind and empathetic and willing to help to help other people. In short, we want them to develop pro-social behavior – and expressing gratitude can foster this in both the expressor and the recipient. In fact, one study shows that when they felt appreciated, people were more likely to help both the people that appreciated them, and other people, too.
How to Write a Great Thank You Note
- Start with a Salutation. This is the typical greeting line. It can be as formal or informal as appropriate, but it’s nice to address the recipient by name.
Example: Dear Aunt Sally,
Example: Hi Judy!
- Add a personal acknowledgement. After the obligatory opener, consider writing a sentence or two about your interactions with the recipient or their state of affairs – or just ask how they are.
Example: It was so great to see you at Thanksgiving, and I hope the rest of your holiday season has been joyful.
Example: Hope this finds you well and staying warm during this chilly week.
- Say what you’re thankful for. Be specific.
Example: Thank you so much for the beautiful, blue socks you sent for my birthday.
Example: I just wanted to reach out and express my gratitude for all the hard work you put into organizing the craft market for the school fundraiser.
- Say why you’re thankful. This is the place to elaborate on how the recipient’s actions or gift improved your life. This might include details of what you liked about a gift or how you intend to use it. Or it might mean explaining the benefits you received, or how their actions made you feel. During this step, it helps to be genuine and reflective about your subject.
Example: They are so comfy! I love wearing them around the house on cold days to keep my feet cozy and warm.
Example: It was a huge success, raising nearly $800 that will be put towards a new costume for Alma Otter, our school mascot. The whole school will be so excited to see Alma’s new look!
- Repeat your thanks and wrap it up. Reiterate your gratitude or add a final thought. Then, finish with a sincere closing.
Example: I’m so lucky to have such a thoughtful Aunt! With love, Emily
Example: Thank you, again, for your effort. Gratefully, Emily
Tips for Getting Children Involved
- Make it fun! Try allowing your kids to play with or use the gifts they received before they start writing. Ask questions as prompts to help them plan what they’ll say in the note. (i.e. What’s your favorite thing about your new art set?) It might help to set an initial timer for playtime, and then allow more playtime to continue after the note is complete.
- Simplify the process. The steps above are great for adults or older youth but can be daunting for younger children. To make the process more accessible, stick to the basics. Maybe just use a greeting line, the thing they’re thankful for, and a closing.
- Be the transcriber. While the actual act of writing can be beneficial, it may also be a barrier for some kiddos. Sometimes, it may help to have your little one write a greeting line and closing, but dictate the longer sentences to an adult.
- Add an activity! Encourage your child(ren) to draw a picture or make a craft that can accompany (or take the place of) a note. This can make an especially meaningful “thank you” for the recipient.
- A Little Thanks Goes a Long Way: Explaining Why Gratitude Expressions Motivate Prosocial Behavior
- Undervaluing Gratitude: Expressers Misunderstand the Consequences of Showing Appreciation
- Gratitude and Well Being: The Benefits of Appreciation
- Study Shows the Power of ‘Thank You’ for Couples
- Gratitude is Good Medicine
- An Introduction to Letter Writing
- Practice Gratitude on Thanksgiving
MEET THE AUTHOR
Emily Schoenfelder joined the Illinois 4-H team in 2017. Prior to this, she began her work in positive youth development with California 4-H and the YMCA. She specializes in STEM engagement, social-emotional development, and educator professional development.
She received a Master of Science degree in recreation, park, and tourism administration from Western Illinois University.
When she is not writing curriculum or facilitating a training, you may find Emily sitting on the floor of her office, building marshmallow catapults out of popsicle sticks or designing mazes for robots for her next STEM program.
ABOUT THE BLOG
Connection Corner is a blog that provides timely information, activities, and resources to help you stay connected to loved ones, the world around you, and yourself.