Dilemma Emma: How to tackle thank you letters

Dear Readers,

The tree is finally down, the pine needles hoovered up, the lights and baubles packed away till next year, the fridge is still full of stilton nobody wants to eat and the bills need reconciling……life moves on so very fast and lurking alongside all of this is the thought that a certain amount of ‘thank yous’ still need to be smashed out, particularly as children tend to dither long beyond the school holidays.  A lovely Bristolian reader has captured this dilemma in the middle of her email…

what’s the story on thank you letters… really fancy not having to force both of my children to write them but really painfully some have already managed to land through our post box from our Christmas visitors. Can’t believe it, need help. This is so the worst bit of Christmas. (name withheld) Bristol.

Well, your anxiety about them is the first thing to address. Face the facts… if you never thank anyone for anything, you very quickly will live a sad and solitary life. You say thank you for the salt being passed and daily, constantly, unwittingly you expect people to thank you. Therefore, if someone has spent their money, given their precious time and effort on buying you a gift or cooking you a meal, you need to thank them. The easiest thing is to just accept this fact and get on with it. Do not give your children a sense that it is a chore, something to be avoided, something to get out of; try to impart to them a sense of this has to be done, so let’s do it well!

That doesn’t mean to say you cannot make it a manageable or even an enjoyable task and hopefully these tips might help:

  • Don’t wait weeks, it hangs over you and when it finally gets sent it has all rather lost its impact. Get it done.
  • Start children writing a thank you from very early on, then it becomes engrained. A handprint from a baby and thank you written underneath takes minutes.
  • Do not clash but help, encourage and explain the rationale behind what you have to do.
  • All sit together, let them model your behaviour… nice biscuits, pens, cards, scissors, glue, crack on.
  • Use all sorts of media to aid this task – this is not a punishment but a lovely activity! Paint a picture, make a collage from magazines, use stamps, make a poster with I LOVE IT! THANK YOU ! as the only words… are you getting this message…. be creative?  
  • Make the short letter into a paper airplane, post and Grandpa will be so blown away with the fun of it, he won’t hear Granny moaning that there was only three sentences!
  • What about sending a thank you video…. if the present giver is abroad, how much would that mean? Ten mins tops to do, zoom it off, happiness all-round…
  • If it is just all too painful, then a ‘teenage friendly and employed in this household this year,’ way out of the quagmire, is the beauty that is Paperless Post! Choose the wonderful free options and email a delightful thank you.   
  • I’ve saved the best for last…..Now this is genius and you may have to thank me for this one…Take a photograph of said child with said gift and using ‘Touchnote’ it is sent to the giver as a postcard, with your thank you message on the back! (£1.99).   
  • Remember it is the act of thanking that is important, this is not a writing test. Point that out to any po-faced receivers, then send them in my direction, as they clearly have issues that they need help with.

If you are the receiver of any of the aforementioned thank you letters, you need to have the good grace to just be happy with whatever you receive. Ask yourself what is the point of making any sort of cutting comment about it? If you receive nothing in the way of a thank you then you have options… One, ignore it as they are not your children to be worried over – did you give them a gift to receive a thank you or because you love them and wanted to give them something? Two, you mention something and risk umbrage being taken. Mull it over and make a decision based on what is best for the child, not for your ego. If there is genuine concern and you think you can sensitively help, then go for it… just always remember they are their parent’s children, don’t loose a friendship. Besides, remember most of the fun is in the choosing, the buying, the wrapping and the general warm fuzzy feeling present giving gives us.

Thank you, I hear you say.

You’re so very welcome, would be my reply.

Happy days,

Dilemma Emma