The holidays are a time of giving, and for our kids, that also means a lot of getting. It can be a great opportunity for teaching gratitude, but should kids be expected to write thank you notes for all their gifts? We asked Michele Borba, Ed.D., parenting expert and author of several books, including UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World to weigh in on how to best approach kids and thank you notes this holiday.
Chicago Parent: What does creating a thank you note teach children?
Michele Borba, Ed.D.: It’s one of the best ways to help children think WE, not ME.
CP: Does it have to be a handwritten note? Are there other, more creative ways of saying thank you that kids may find a bit more enjoyable than sitting down to write a note that still teach gratitude?
Borba: The problem for most parents is getting kids to write thank you notes without a struggle. It’s good to get creative. Here are fun ways, but I’m betting your kids can create more.
- Make a video just for that person that expresses appreciation.
- Take a photo of your child wearing or using the gift and turn it into a postcard. The child can write a brief thank you on the back, address and mail it.
- Write the thank you on card stock and cut it into pieces like a jigsaw puzzle.
- Spell out the thank you using M&Ms or alphabet cereal glued on cardboard.
CP: What should parents be encouraging kids to keep in mind when creating thank you notes for holiday gifts?
Borba: A hard lesson for kids is that they’re thanking the person not for the gift but rather for the thoughtfulness behind it. Keep reinforcing the thought that went into the deed.
Practice with your child before the birthday, reunion, holidays or occasion where your kid may be receiving a gift to help him learn why and how to be appreciative. For example, “Aunt Sally thought a lot about what to give you this year” and “Josh went to five stores to find what would make you happiest.”
CP: What are some pitfalls parents can avoid when it comes to thank you notes?
Borba: Our biggest mistake is that we’re great at celebrating gratitude at Thanksgiving or the day after the holidays. To reap the benefits, we need to make it a 365 day a year affair. Hint: find ways to make gratitude a regular routine in your home.
CP: What are some benefits of teaching kids gratitude?
Borba: The benefits of teaching gratitude are proven: gratitude increases authentic happiness, empathy, kindness, optimism and even well-being. Gratitude also boosts respect and civility but help kids learn to consider other people’s feelings rather than just their own.
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