Why kids should write thank-you letters

The cute card that popped through my letter box had a smiling bear on the front clutching a daisy with the message “Thank You So Much”.

Inside was a note from my lovely Auntie Mo in her distinctive loopy handwriting thanking my sister and I for sending flowers. It read: “Thank you so much for your kind thoughts and very generous gift. In fact, I felt quite emotional when they arrived.”

We always swap small gifts at Christmas, but this year Sis and I wanted to do something special to lift auntie’s spirits as our uncle has been having cancer treatment and the punishing schedule of hospital visits has been hard on Mo. Judging from the note, the M&S ‘Avalanche & Lisianthus’ arrangement certainly did the trick and left us in no doubt how much our gift had been appreciated.

But while the art of the thank-you letter remains alive and kicking with us “oldies”, the younger generation seems to have forgotten its manners. Despite the small fortune I’ve forked out on younger friends and relatives this Christmas I suspect I’ll wait in vain for any acknowledgement.

I don’t want effusive thanks or a mantelpiece full of thank-you cards (well maybe a little!) … I’d just settle for knowing that my carefully chosen gifts have arrived safe and sound. But so far I’ve heard not one cheep … no call, text, email, DM or even Snapchat has been forthcoming … never mind a traditional thank-you letter.

So … just exactly when did kids stop writing thank-you letters?

From the second I was old enough to crayon my own name, my mum had me scribbling my profuse gratitude to everyone kind enough to remember me on birthdays and Christmases. In most cases I had barely managed to tear open the wrapping paper before I was handed a packet of notelets and told to crack on.

It was a task I wasn’t allowed to dodge – “Do it now before you forget!” – and to my shame it always felt like a boring chore that was more for mum’s benefit than mine, to allow her to show off her top parenting skills.

But what’s all this got to do with the big, bad world of business, I hear you ask?

Well, as the old saying goes … it’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know!

Those early thank-you notes formed the basis of a personal network that helped me identify work experience opportunities which in turn led to my first full-time job as a cub reporter on my local paper. It also started a lifelong habit of nurturing relationships which over the years has allowed me to return the favour by mentoring younger friends and family members, and provide job references and work experience opportunities.

In fact, I would advise any young person to ask their family and friends for job search help first. This ready-made network is a great way to hear about jobs and apprenticeships, and because your friends and family care about you, and most of them will help gladly.

So, if you want your kids gainfully employed in the future, start nagging them to write their thank-you letters now. You never know where it might lead…