Do You Really Need To Write Thank-You Notes? Here’s What’s Considered Rude Today. – Lifotravel


There are a few ways that I perennially disappoint myself as a parent. Getting the library books returned on time is one of them. Another is thank-you notes. My intention every year is to keep a master list of which birthday gifts my children received and who gave them, hunt down each family’s physical address, purchase stamps from the post office (bonus points for something whimsical), oversee the writing of an appropriate note to each family and mail them off in a timely fashion.

Alas, I am not that mother. I usually give up somewhere between collecting the addresses and purchasing the stamps. Sometimes we manage to get a few sent out, but, honestly, those years are outliers.

I’ll never forget driving my son home from his fifth birthday party. We had dumped all the gifts in the backseat with him, and when I turned to look, only his face was visible beneath a heap of colored tissue paper and torn, crinkly wrapping. There was no way to untangle who had brought a gift at all (we had specified in the invite that it wasn’t necessary), let alone which one. I felt a wave of defeat — followed by one of relief. I was off the hook.

Though I usually manage to shirk it somehow, thank-you notes are a duty that both my kids and I dread. But maybe I’m making the whole process more difficult than it needs to be. Perhaps there’s a better way.

While you may have noticed that thank-you notes for birthday gifts are not the norm they once were (back in the days when kids sent and received mail), the etiquette experts that HuffPost consulted all agreed that saying thanks is one gesture that never goes out of style.

Here is some advice they had for tackling this particular birthday denouement.

Complete thank-you notes in order of importance.

If, like me, you fear not ever being able to scratch every name off your list, you can rely on the following hierarchy to determine which correspondence to prioritize.

“Grandparents are traditionally at the top of the list for receiving a thank-you note,” Thomas Farley of Mister Manners told HuffPost. “After that would likely come aunts and uncles, followed by cousins, family friends and finally, peers. In essence, the older the gift-giver, the more eagerly they anticipated the thank-you note.”

Handwritten notes are preferable, but not the only way.

A handwritten thank-you note, while becoming rare, is still the gold standard.

“With emails and text messages replacing fully thought-out sentiments expressed on paper for so many children and adults, the old-fashioned, handwritten thank-you note stands out like never before,” Farley said, noting that a physical note is “a sign of a gift recipient being truly eager to express gratitude in a format that is not ephemeral and shows a bit of additional effort on the sender’s part.”

There may be ways to ease the load, however. Diane Gottsman, of the Protocol School of Texas, told HuffPost that while “handwritten is always best,” you can also find “little cards with fill-in-the-blanks that parents assist children with.”

Older children, however, should compose their notes themselves. “Once the birthday girl or boy has reached the age of 6 or 7, they should be writing their own notes,” Farley said.

But if lack of addresses or stamps is what’s preventing you from sending thank-yous, it’s preferable to use the available technology rather than skip the gesture.

Because a text, photo or email is easier, a person might be more likely to send a thank-you this way — making it a nice surprise for the recipient.

You might also take the recipient’s preferences into account. “If you know your family member is going to enjoy a video thank-you, feel free to create a happy, upbeat video,” Gottsman said.

When my children were toddlers, I would sometimes send friends and relatives short videos of the kids playing with the toys they had given them.

Adding a photo to a note “is always an additional perk,” Gottsman said, though she warned that sending thanks via text message might seem “somewhat impersonal.”

Jodi RR Smith of Mannersmith Consulting said that “an emailed thank-you note works for gifts given from afar (as in overseas)” and “a video thank-you allows the giver to see and hear the recipient’s excitement and gratitude,” yet “the norm of a handwritten notes still endures.”

One advantage of a written note instead of a video, she continued, is that you don’t need to worry about a child’s gratitude sounding sincere. They simply need to write the words. “A video is great if the child is effusive and convincing. This may just be too much for many children,” she told HuffPost.

The note doesn’t need to be long or complex.

If you have a budding writer on your hands, by all means, let them wax rhapsodic about their new roller skates. But if your kids are like mine, they avoid thank-you notes as though they were homework.

Luckily, the effort of putting pen to paper at all counts for something. The content of the note can be simple.

“Two or three sentences are perfectly acceptable in a handwritten note,” Gottsman said.

Farley suggested including “gratitude for the gift and how the child plans to use it,” or, for money, “how the child plans to spend the funds.”

You want to avoid a note that sounds “assembly-line generic,” he continued, such as, “Thank you SOOOO much for your present. It was great!”

If you are using email or text, extra care should be taken to be specific about what the gift was and how it will be used. “The gift recipient will need to make a real effort to ensure it does not seem like there was a cut/paste, cut/paste, cut/paste in an email or text thank you,” Smith said.

“An email or text acknowledging the gift arrived with a brief thanks, followed by a sincere and thoughtful thank-you note is ideal,” she continued. “Sincerity is the most important aspect in writing a thank-you note. Let the recipient know why you appreciated what they did.”

In terms of how much to guide your child, Smith recommended the following progression: “In the beginning, children can draw a picture and the adult adds the message. Then, the adult can help draft some fill-in-the-blank notes. Next, the adult prompts the child verbally for the notes. And ultimately the child writes the note with the adult making sure the note is stamped and in the mail.”

The goal is for your child to feel responsible for the note, and for it to feel authentic. “The parent can reread it before it sent off, but unless it’s something glaring, try not to correct it,” Gottsman said.

Writing each gift-giver an individual note matters.

The apps we use to send party invitations can also be used to send messages to guests, either individually or as a group.

While “a group thank-you to guests for attending is lovely,” Smith said, she believes that gifts should be acknowledged individually.

“A generalized thank-you to the group is not acceptable. It is also not acceptable to ask guests to address their own thank-you envelopes,” Smith said.

Farley and Gottsman concurred.

“A rote note (even worse, a machine-printed one with no personalization whatsoever) shows such little effort that it is scarcely meaningful. Given the choice as a giver between receiving a pre-printed, non-personal paper thank-you and a thank-you phone call, I would certainly choose the latter,” Farley said.

In terms of tracking who gave what, Farley suggested video-recording the opening so as to have a record. Or try assigning this task to one person. “Mom or Dad or a sibling or friend or aunt can take careful notes so thank-you notes can be sent out mentioning the correct gift,” Gottsman said.

Smith advises against having children open gifts during the party itself, as “not all children are good at being in the spotlight. And not all guests are good about sitting still while the birthday child is showered with gifts.” Farley mentioned that you should also take in the age of the child (can they wait?) and the location (are you at home?) into consideration when deciding when to open gifts.

“Opening the gifts at the party is neither right or wrong. It really depends on each individual family,” Gottsman said.

In a move that I fully plan to copy into my playbook, Smith suggested having the child unwrap the gifts but not open them up until the corresponding thank-you note has been sent.

While a note may no longer be expected, it will almost certainly be appreciated.

“You could never go wrong with a thank-you note,” she said. “It’s the effort that counts.”


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