By LAUREN FORCELLA
DEAR STRAIGHT TALK: Each year I give my niece and nephew an expensive gift of something they want or need, often including money. If I’m there, they say thank you, but I’ve never once received a thank-you letter. I know young people are busy, but really? Too busy to spend 15 minutes? The kids are now 17 and 19.
I’m disappointed that my brother and his wife never made them write thank-you letters. (I’ve not received email thankyous either.) Though I’ve never complained, ingratitude is such a poor trait.
Should I send them anything this year?
— Aunt Maureen
Katie, 18, Auburn: The last time I wrote thank-yous, I was 5 and my parents forced me. Now I don’t have time, but I always make a point to call relatives to thank them. No thank-you whatsoever?
That’s discouraging. I would stop buying them expensive gifts.
Christina, 19, Marysville: Guilty as charged! My mom has told me to write thank-yous, but I’m lazy about it. The few times I actually did it, I never had the addresses! If I have the person’s email, I might send thanks that way.
Taylor, 14, Santa Rosa: What you describe is normal. People don’t have time and many don’t know better. My mom made me write thank-yous when I was younger, but I usually don’t anymore.
For a grandparent, I might send a quick email thanks.
Peter, 24, Monterey: I consider myself polite, and nobody told me about thankyou letters until I was almost an adult!
That said, I ALWAYS call or thank people in person.
Carrie, 17, Los Angeles: I always forget!
After many forgotten thank-yous, one aunt sat me down and called me “ungrateful.” When I tried explaining that I just forget, she said to “stop complaining.”
Now I dread getting gifts from her.
Catherine, 24, Amherst, Mass.: I’ve never written a thank-you letter in my life and only know one person who does. It’s not something I was taught and seems odd.
Liva, 22, Santa Barbara: I was terrible about writing thank-you letters. Nonetheless, my parents INSISTED upon them — even if it was March! My father still checks to see if I’ve sent them and now the answer is always “YES!” because I’ve discovered that expressing gratitude makes me feel good. I actually enjoy writing them! Regarding gifts, at 18, most relatives began sending cards instead of gifts.
Gregg, 20, Los Angeles: I use to dread presents from relatives because I had to write thank-you letters. My mom was a stickler about them — and still is! Her efforts paid off just this year. Now I’m all for thank-you cards! The time and energy to write a note is nothing compared to their thoughtfulness. A note of appreciation is the nicest thing you can do — and the right thing.
DEAR AUNT MAUREEN: Judging from the panel’s response, most helicopter parents aren’t hovering over the thank-you letter. How sad. A thank-you note is the right thing to do — and, according to multiple studies, expressing gratitude improves happiness, social connectedness, even physical health, including protecting against certain psychological disorders.
With parents allowing kids an average of seven hours daily of screen-time entertainment, they definitely have time.
Maureen, you’ve been a model of unconditional love. If you can continue giving unconditionally, do so. Otherwise, rather than feel resentment, scale back.
Parents: Please insist, “force,” or be a stickler (however you want to look at it) about gratitude. Start by making thank-you letters part of your annual holiday tradition.
Readers: WE are grateful to YOU! Your engagement, questions and donations keep Straight Talk helping thousands of youths and parents. Thanks to each of you! — Lauren
(Adapted from a column from December 2011. Straight Talk TNT.org is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that tackles youth’s toughest issues with youth’s wisest advice. Go deeper in today’s conversation or ask a question at www.StraightTalkTNT.org or P.O. Box 1974, Sebastopol 95473.)