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Do's and don'ts of kids thank you notes

Abbi Perets lives in Houston, TX, with her husband and five children.

The fine art of thank you notes

The gifts have been opened and admired. The boxes have been recycled. The toys are in use -- or, perhaps, already shunned in favor of candy, television, and time with friends and relatives. All that's left is the thank you notes. Teach your kids how to write one properly.

Don't put off writing thank you notes

All thank you notes should be written by New Year's Day. In fact, New Year's Day itself can be a great day to get the notes taken care of -- everyone's home, the rush is over, and you have some downtime. The notes shouldn't take more than an hour, start to finish, so get them out of the way right after breakfast, and enjoy the rest of the day.

Do work together for the right wording

Invariably, your child will receive a gift he doesn't like, and he will be truly unhappy when he learns that he still has to write a thank you note for it. Acknoweldge his disappointment, but be firm about writing the note. You'll most likely need to work together to find appropriate wording. It's okay to have a little fun -- for example, you can thank aunt Martha for the "unique" sweater -- but the note must be polite and unoffensive.

Don't stick to just one format

If you have a child with learning disabilities or terrible handwriting, let him type his notes, print them, and glue them to an illustrated card. If, like me, you have children who are just plain lazy, hand them pen and paper and remove all forms of sustenance and entertainment until they miraculously manage to get the work done. If you have children who are too young to write, let them draw a picture -- or take a photograph of them enjoying the gift -- to accompany your note.

Thank you notes do take a little bit of time and effort, but they do enhance the gift exchange experience. People who are thanked properly are more likely to reward you with gifts in the future. And you can absolutely tell your kids that.

For more on kids and thank you notes:

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