Gratitude is a gift you give back lovingly, not a chore to be forced. SO, how can we, as parents, set this up for success for our children to take on this task with pride and wholeness of heart? We make it into a full family ritual, complete with sounds, smells, tastes, and a Thank You Card (or Method) that incorporates their personality and their abilities. Make sure to do it each year the week after Christmas, or the Hanukka events, or whatever holiday you celebrate, and it will be a cherished memory, and a lifelong tradition they can share with their children. When done with love, it helps them embrace an important life skill: an attitude of gratitude.
Although it will take some prep time on your part (see below), when your family sits down to complete the task, make it special, and give it plenty of time.
- SOUND: Put on some enjoyable Winter Music, or some of your favorite children’s Christmas songs, or music specific to your holiday. Our family’s favorite is the Charlie Brown Christmas album (LOVE that JAZZ). Or the Winter Wonderland album. NOTE: The title song is a FREE DOWNLOAD during December, a special gift from Kindermusik International.
- TASTE: Serve hot chocolate, or spiced cider, and a few nibbler treats to munch on (choose to serve before, during, or after, based on what works best for your family.) Many times, we are still working on finishing off our Gingerbread houses.
- SMELL: Add a delightful aroma with some of your favorite candles or essential oils of the season. This year, a special family gave me a “Twisted Peppermint” candle – a perfect addition to our tradition.
- TOUCH: Set up the table with all the things you need to make this successful and free of stress.
First, consider the best method that YOUR child will enjoy to make MULTIPLE Thank You cards. Take into account their ability level, and their personality. Each one of these activities allows the child to share a bit of themselves in a way that makes them feel special for “giving back”, without overwhelming them with the task. Combine the ideas, and make them your own. If you have any of your own, please add them in the comment section.
PICTURES: For a baby or any child who is not yet able to write, take a photograph of the child with the objects given to them by each specific person/family. They may be wearing the new outfit, or playing with the toy, or even sleeping with it under their arm. This can be emailed with a quick note, or printed and sent by mail with a handwritten note below the picture, or on the back. IF gifts are given personally, it is an awesome memory to take a picture of the giver, the child, and the gift while they are together. For your child, when they are ready, it is a great idea to have a picture of each family and friend in a photo album that is easy for them to use. Review these family photos, and talk about which person gave them which gift, and maybe help them remember some details of that family member. These pictures can be looked at again and again, with stories weaved in to make the family tapestry strong. BOTH my children repeatedly sought out and lingered over family pictures in their baby books – mesmerized as young children are with faces. As they got older, we had to call each one… even if just to listen to the other family member talk.
INK STAMPS: There is an amazing array of stamps on the market now because of Scrapbooking. For children able to use stamps (but not write well), get a STAMP with their NAME on it. For the very young, you may use a self inking stamp (to avoid patches of ink everywhere), but the regular stamps offer more of a variety with children just a bit older. Ink pads come in a variety of colors, so get a few of their favorites, and let them choose which color to use. Or, of course, you can have them use their markers to color the stamp any way they want, and then stamp it on the paper. You may even take them to the store, to choose a few stamps that reflect their interests, ie. trains, animals, or royal accessories. Cut a sheet of card stock into four postcards and let them decorate both sides with their “personality stamps” and their NAME stamp on ONE side at the BOTTOM, and let dry. Parents can write the address on one side, and on the side with the name, a quick note commenting on how their child reacted to the gift. If they are starting to write, you may have them write just the NAME of the person it is for. Help them “picture” the person in their head by showing pictures, or telling stories of fun times they had together.
COPY ART / SIMPLE THANK YOU: Maybe your child can trace or write THANK YOU ! and their NAME, and add their own art work to a sheet of paper. This page can be color copied, as many as you need, full size, or even half size on the top of a full sheet of paper, allowing the parents to add a few handwritten details at the bottom.
FORM LETTERS: For those children who are able to write a bit, but get bogged down in the repetitiveness of the Thank You note, appreciate having a Form letter with many of the words already written. This can easily be done on the computer by the parent, or even better, the parent and child working together to design it. A normal Word document with expanded margins, with two columns, on a horizontal page can fit FOUR “postcards”. See, or even USE my sample.
Dear _________________, December 2011
Like a single snowflake, you are unique,
and you have brightened my world with
the gift of your friendship.
I especially want to thank you for
The world is a more beautiful place because of you !
May your new year be filled with beautiful unique adventures!
Cora (almost 8 years old) wanted a snowflake this year, so we found a good image online and we worked on the words together. She can, and would be willing to write this ONCE, but would fight tooth and nail if she had to write it multiple times. Once printed and cut into postcards, she can personalize each one by just writing the NAME of the person, and the gift received, as well as a short comment about her reaction to it. Then she can decide how to end it, and add her name. Actually, she is choosing to cut each postcard a little smaller and send each one in an envelope this year, along with a paper snowflake that she has cut out herself (a good use for all the snowflakes that seem to be multiplying at my house.)
Even my 16 year old son, James, likes using the Form Letter format. He just types in the information instead of leaving blanks. This is only for the family and friends who don’t use text messaging… the current means of ANY communication for a teenager. Handwriting, as I am told, is no longer used to communicate. Except, as I tell him, for those few family members who consider his handwriting a treasure of their own.
SHORT & SWEET VIDEO: For all the drama kings and queens out there, especially those with parents who have access and knowledge of video taking and sharing, there is ALWAYS the personal Thank You video. Cora got one of her wishes fulfilled when Grammy sent her matching outfits for her and her American Girl doll. Within the hour, She had to put the outfits on both her and her doll, then pose for pictures, and showcase her gift and her appreciation via a short video taken on my smartphone and texted to Grammy. Then we called her to make sure she got it, and they had a grand discussion. YES, she will still be sending a Thank You card in the mail because these things mean a lot to Grammy. But the immediate nature of communication these days offers a LOT of options !
Whereas, my teenage son won’t even let me take a picture of him. What is up with that ??!!
PLEASE share your ideas for Holiday Thank You Methods with me as well !