With the ease of Internet communications, letter writing has become almost a lost art. But there are times when a handwritten note or letter is more appropriate, and much more appreciated, than an email.
Teaching children how to write a short letter or thank-you note to doting relatives will give them a valuable skill they can use throughout their lives. You can start before they even learn to read and write, by having them dictate a thank-you note for a birthday, Christmas, or Hanukkah gift. Let them choose a picture of themselves to include in the letter, and then have them seal the envelope and apply the stamp and a return address sticker. And don’t forget to model letter writing by using written correspondence yourself to communicate with loved ones. If you’re writing to someone your children know, ask them if they want to send a message to the recipient.
Once your children begin to read and write, make sure they have available a collection of colorful stationery, including preprinted thank-you notes, holiday cards, and writing paper with matching envelopes; also get them an address book – a big one with plenty of room to write is good for small hands. Help them make a birthday and holiday card list of their friends and relatives, and then keep track of special days to make sure they send cards and letters in time.
Letter-writing etiquette has relaxed over the years, but some practices still apply, and for good reason. Teach children to get into the habit of using return addresses and dates at the top of their letters (“So your grandma can write you back” and “So your aunt will know when you wrote the letter”). You may also want to have them make a copy of their note or letter before they send it; it’s easy enough if you have a combination printer/scanner/photocopier for your computer.
Hopefully your children’s relatives will write back when they receive a note or letter; if not, you might want to nudge them. (A gift of stationery and postage stamps might help in that regard.)
Developing family histories through correspondence
As your children move through various stages of their lives, they might find it interesting to discover what their grandparents and other adults in their lives experienced at the same age. If you encourage them to ask questions of family members in their letters, they will probably receive a wealth of information in return. You may want to supply each of your children with a special folder to keep correspondence they receive, and take the responsibility yourself to keep the folders in a special place. Your children may not fully appreciate the family histories they compile now, but in twenty years, these letters and the information they contain may end up meaning a lot to them.
Helping your children develop the habit of writing letters and thank-you notes will have positive benefits in the future. Writing a thank-you to a classmate for a birthday party invitation can translate into a thank-you to a prospective employer for a job interview a dozen years from now. Letter-writing etiquette essentially means good manners and consideration of other people, and those character traits can only benefit your children as they become responsible, caring adults.
About The Author:
Aldene Fredenburg is a freelance writer living in southwestern New Hampshire, who has written numerous articles for local and regional publications. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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