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The Homefront: Moms, dads, grads and newlyweds — Say ‘thank you’

By D. Louise Brown - Special to the Standard-Examiner | May 17, 2022

D. Louise Brown

Thanksgiving time is usually when we make an extra effort to express our thanks. But May’s Mother’s Day followed by all levels of graduations, then June’s Father’s Day and an entire month-plus of weddings offer loads of opportunities for us to express our thanks.

Thank-you cards should be flying off the shelves right now. But are they? Do people still send heartfelt, handwritten thank-you cards? Or has this form of communication also gone to text or voicemail?

Three thank-you cards recently came to us from high school grads who previously sent their lovely “Hey, I’m graduating!” announcements to us. We expressed our happiness for their success by enclosing some cash in cards and sending those back to them. At that critical moment, a young person decides whether to toss the card and pocket the cash or respond with an appropriate thank you. Those three cards are evidence that these graduates not only succeeded in school, but also in a social skill that will serve them well. Kudos to them, and to parents who clearly taught them right.

I researched the correct time to start teaching kids to write thank-you cards. Surprisingly, recommendations ranged from 3 to 18 years old. One seems a bit young, but the other is shockingly old. An 18-year-old who has never written a thank-you card has been seriously deprived of the growth that comes from expressing gratitude. One of society’s most basic, essential skills is learning how to sincerely tell another human being “Thank you.”

Simple little kids’ thank-you cards are the best. “Dear, Grandma. Thank you for letting me have flowers from your garden. Next time I will ask first. Love, Annie.”

They’re also raw with innocent honesty. “Dear, Grandpa. Thank you for the board. I like how it smells. Love, Jimmy.”

Naturally, as they age, kids need encouragement, especially when they lose that innocence and realize someone at the other end is actually going to read their card, maybe study the penmanship, and feel some sort of response. A writer can get all blocked up over that, unable to form a sentence for fear it might be nuanced the wrong way. At that point, it’s best to go back to the basics of how to write a thank-you card in three easy parts: 1: Say thank you and name the item; 2: Say how you will use it; and 3: Tell how it made you feel.

Those steps work for just about any thank-you card. For example, a couple of newlyweds are writing their thank-you cards. They come across the gift from a great aunt. Their card would say something like, “Dear, Aunt Agatha. Thank you for the cut glass pitcher and tumbler set. We plan to use it for breakfast each morning. We’re grateful you gave us such a beautiful gift.”

Speaking of newlyweds: When you say, “I do,” be aware that statement includes an inherent agreement that you both will write the thank-you cards. You sent out hundreds of announcements of your upcoming nuptials, invited your friends to celebrate with you, and happily received their adoration along with a mountain of gifts. This defining moment in your new life together could evolve a couple of ways. You both sit down and write the cards together. Or you both argue about who is going to write the cards and make the mistaken assumption that you’ll each write the cards to your “side of the family.” (Never a good idea for so many reasons). Or you assume the other person will do it, so it doesn’t get done. Or you assume thank-you cards are old fashioned and unnecessary, ensuring a belief among those unthanked persons who gave you gifts that you have joined the “entitled” movement.

So moms and dads, grads and newlyweds: Write the thank-you cards. People don’t need them as much as we need the growth that comes from saying thank you.

And remember: We never regret sending a thank-you card but will probably regret not sending one.

D. Louise Brown lives in Layton. She writes a biweekly column for the Standard-Examiner.

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