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Molly Street, 6, contemplates how she wants to decorate a hand-written thank you note at her mother's stationary store.
When it comes to writing thank you notes, Jenny Street's kids take different approaches. Molly, 6, eagerly selects her stationery, writes a personal message and decorates her notes with balloons, hearts and flowers. wen, 8, needs a bit more coaxing from Mom and favors fill-in-the-blank cards that don't require the same effort.
"He's a boy -- he doesn't want to be bothered," says Street, who manages a stationery store in Phoenix.
If there's a downside to the holidays for some children, it may be writing thank you notes. It's up to parents to make sure the job still gets done, etiquette experts say, for reasons beyond letting far-flung relatives know their gifts arrived.
"It reinforces the lesson of gratitude and appreciation for others' time and effort," says Michèle O'Reilly, director of the Connecticut School of Etiquette, in Darien, Connecticut.
Adds Jean Summers, author of "The Kids' Guide to Writing Great Thank-You Notes" (Writers' Collective, 2005): "As our lives get more and more high-tech, people are starting to treasure handmade things. These are keepsakes."
Creating these keepsakes doesn't have to be a chore.
Kids enjoy note-writing more when it's a family affair, Summers says. Parents, too, should be sending thank yous after the holidays, and everyone can work together at the kitchen table. Even if Mom and Dad aren't writing, they should be ready with encouragement and help with addresses, spelling and, if necessary, sentiment.
"It doesn't have to be a novel," O'Reilly says. "It's a few sentences that are sincere and are meant for the person who gave it to you."
Twelve-year-old Emma Joyce generally handles the task on her own but will ask her mother's opinion when acknowledging a gift she's not so fond of.
"Sometimes she takes my advice, sometimes she doesn't," laughs her mom, Elizabeth, of Ridgefield, Connecticut.
Another way to increase the fun factor: Treat thank you notes as an art project instead of a homework assignment, O'Reilly suggests. Kids are more apt to jump in when they can include a drawing, or dress up their stationery with markers and stickers.
Enclosing a photo of your child with the gift will further personalize each note and delight recipients, Summers adds.
Older kids who have had their fill of the handwritten thank you may suggest sending their sentiments via e-mail. That decision should depend on the recipient, Summers says. "If that person is on the computer a lot and sends e-mails, that's perfectly fine."
But remember the disadvantage, O'Reilly warns. "E-mails can be deleted, phone calls can be forgotten. Usually when you send a written thank you, it's something that hangs around for a while."
Some other tips for parents from the etiquette pros: