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Exercise in letter-writing can help with the January doldrums

January 25, 2008|By LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

Editor's note: Lisa Tedrick Prejean is on vacation. The following is a column that previously ran in The Herald-Mail.

Have the doldrums set in at your house?

More so than any other month, January seems to start slowly and continues to drag along at a snail's pace. After the pre-holiday rush, a few days of inactivity is welcome. But then the days seem longer and darker. It's easy to become downcast.

I don't like to allow the togetherness and good will of December to fizzle. I want to cherish those special moments, thoughtful gifts and heartfelt gestures.

That's why January is typically my family's biggest letter-writing month of the year.

Most of the letters are expressions of thanks to our friends and family members for kind deeds and thoughtful gifts.

Since both my daughter and husband have early January birthdays, we have a double-portion of thank-yous to offer.

I'm attempting to teach my children that it is a privilege to write a thank-you note. First off, when someone does something nice for you, you are the object of that person's love, care or concern. There are countless people in this world who would trade places with you - even if the item wasn't the right size, color or style.

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You were remembered. That means a lot.

Secondly, you will lift the spirits of the person receiving the thank-you note. We all like to know that our efforts on behalf of others are appreciated. There is value to good will. As it is passed back and forth, the motivation to keep it up continues.

Plus, acknowledging a gift is the right thing to do. Many people think they are too busy to write thank-you notes. I say if you're too busy to write the note, you're too busy to use the item sent. (If my children complain about writing a thank-you, a certain toy might disappear until they find time to express thanks for it.)

I like to send thank-yous in the mail because they arrive unexpectedly and can be opened at the receiver's convenience. Hand-delivered notes are nice, too, they just take away some of the element of surprise. Plus, if the note is for a child, receiving it as a letter in the mailbox can be quite exciting.

We try to keep our letter-writing project simple. I have a list of gifts received. Each evening after dinner and homework, the children are allowed to select the person to whom they will write that night. This gives them a little control, which they enjoy very much. They only have to write one letter each evening. Then they get to play until bathtime. Knowing that they get to play afterward is a great motivator to finish a letter.

My 6-year-old daughter's notes are typically very short: "Thank you for the (blank). Love, Chloe," and I think that's fine for her age. I've noticed that the more letters she writes, the less she asks me to spell commonly used words such as "Thank" and "Love." The practice is good for her.

I've been encouraging my 9-year-old son to focus less on the item and more on the thought behind the item: "It was nice of you to think of me at Christmastime. I really like the (blank) and have been playing with it every evening. Love, Tristan."

By mentioning the item specifically, the gift-giver knows that the child remembered which gift came from him or her. It's also nice for writers of thank-you notes to say how they are using or planning to use the item. That makes the note a little more personal.

Children can address their envelopes, place stamps in the upper right-hand corner and address labels in the upper left-hand corner. (They love having their own address labels. Tuck that idea away until next year as a stocking-stuffer idea for the children in your life.)

Our letter-writing project might take a few weeks to finish, but that's OK.

By then we'll be busy selecting Valentines and will wonder how January went by so fast.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at lisap@herald-mail.com.

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