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A Note About
"Thank You" Notes

by Susan V. Bosak
Intergenerational researcher, educator, author,
Chair of the Legacy Project

"Thank you" notes may be the single most important item essential to good intergenerational relationships. I'm not kidding! So many grandparents I talk to say this is THE biggest complaint they have -- they never get a "thank you" note from their grandchildren. They often don't even know if a grandchild has received a gift safely, let alone whether or not they like it. If grandparents don't get feedback, how can they know what to get grandchildren? "Thank you" notes teach children an important social skill, and make grandparents feel loved and appreciated. They get two-way communication going. Both parents and teachers can do their part to encourage thank you notes.

If you're a parent, one of the easiest things you can do to support a close bond between your children and their grandparents is to help children write a simple "thank you" note for gifts from grandparents. A "thank you" note doesn't have to be fancy or long. It can just acknowledge receipt of a gift; have a line describing what the grandchild likes about the gift, or what they're going to do with it; and then end with a "thank you" and "I love you."

Another approach is to make a game out of "thank you" notes. Children can hide notes on small pieces of paper throughout their grandparents' home, in their suitcase, or in their car. Relate the notes to specific activities (e.g. "thanks for reading with me this afternoon" or "it was fun doing woodworking with you"). Think up a line or two, and clever places to hide the notes. Be creative. Slip a note in a grandparent's coat pocket about how much you enjoyed the walk or going tobogganing. Put a note in a mixing bowl about how much you enjoyed making cookies.

Teachers can play their role in bolstering intergenerational relationships (and building social skills) when students return to school in the new year. Encourage students to write "thank you" notes to both parents and grandparents as a class activity. Ask children about gifts they received and special things they did over the holidays. Look beyond just material presents to time enjoyed, skills taught, new things learned, or new experiences. Students can make and decorate a card on a sheet of paper folded in half, or write a letter. Think how surprised parents and grandparents will be to receive these unexpected treasures.

Finally, what can grandparents do to encourage "thank you" notes? You can talk to your adult children about how important acknowledgement is to you. You can also talk to your grandchildren and use this as an opportunity to teach a social grace. Explain that you want to hear from them and find out what they liked or didn't like about a gift. Be persistent in your communication, without anger or criticism. As a hint or reminder, some grandparents enclose a "fill-in-the-blanks" card they write out for grandchildren to return to them. Another good idea is to set an example yourself -- acknowledge and thank grandchildren for something they've sent or given you, or even a phone call.

Thank you for your attention to this matter!

© Susan V. Bosak, Legacy Project