Our Eye Center has answers to your vision health questions. Visit today.
by Peggy Post, AARP The Magazine, December 2009
Question: We give our grandchildren, ages 13 and 16, generous gifts for Christmas. The problem is we never receive thank-you notes. Should we talk to our son about it? What's the best way to handle this?
Answer: I hear about this problem frequently. There are several ways to encourage younger generations to understand the value and importance of writing thank-you notes. One friend of mine who never received notes sent her nephew her usual check for one of his birthdays—but intentionally didn't sign it. When her nephew called to let her know her "mistake," my friend had the perfect opportunity to chat with him about the importance of thank-you notes. He never missed sending a note after that!
Certainly, speak with your son—and possibly your daughter-in-law too—about your concern. This is a good first step, but be careful not to chastise them. Do let the parents know that you plan to talk to the kids, saying something like: "We know that Sam and Andrew are grateful for the gifts we give them, but we feel that it's important that they express it with a thank-you note. We want to let you know that we plan to speak with them about it."
If the parents balk, you'll have to decide how far you want to push the issue. Talk with them and point out the benefits of establishing a thank-you-note habit. If the parents refuse to acknowledge your request, you'll have to decide if you're willing to stop giving gifts to make a point. Lobby for a thank-you phone call or e-mail before giving up. Ultimately, this isn't worth a family rift. Take the long view and look for future opportunities to show your grandchildren the value of thank-you notes.
If you talk to your grandchildren, stick to the positives. Ask them if they have ever received a thank-you note and how did it made them feel? Also see if they've ever given someone a gift, or done a favor, without being thanked. Tell them how good it makes you feel to receive thank-you notes, and that each note is an important way to express gratitude. Writing thank-you notes is also an important part of getting a job, applying to college, and advancing in a career. And as a last practical point say, "Andrew, when I send you a gift in the mail, I won't know you've received it unless I hear from you."
You could also take your grandchildren shopping for age-appropriate note cards and stamps (or purchase and send to them). Write a thank-you note with them, and give them ideas about how and what to write.
If you're regularly online, encourage the kids to communicate with you via e-mail to express thanks that way, too. A handwritten note is best, but it's important to start somewhere.
Got a tricky etiquette dilemma? Send your questions to Peggy Post
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
Visit the AARP state page for information about events, news and resources near you.
Members save 10% off the best available rate
TV show reviews, news and celebrity interviews
Members save 15% on pick-up orders placed by phone
AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
You'll start receiving the latest news, benefits, events, and programs related to AARP's mission to empower people to choose how they live as they age.
You can also manage your communication preferences by updating your account at anytime. You will be asked to register or log in.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at