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If there's one thing Southerners know, it's that you should always, always, always send a thank-you note. And it's never too early to start teaching your children to do the same. Even so, schooling little ones in the art of the thank you can be trickier than you might imagine. We tapped Birmingham, Alabama, etiquette teacher Amy Rainer (@etiquettewithamy) for her expert advice.

Before getting into the nuts and bolts of the thank-you note itself, Rainer says that it's helpful to explain to your child the purpose of writing one in the first place. "Sending thank-you notes is an important thing to do and a great way to show your gratitude for a gift," says Rainer. "But you also want to express your appreciation for your relationship with the giver." Here are her steps for helping your children accomplish just that.

Be specific in your message.

It's important to reference the gift by name. Rather than simply stating, "Thank you for the present," write, 'Thank you for the doll house/skateboard/book/etc." This way, the giver feels his or her gift was memorable

Share something positive about the present.

Even if the gift isn't something your children would've chosen for themselves, help them find something they like about it: maybe they like the colors of the puzzle or the softness of the jacket. It's also a good idea to reference how they'll use the gift: For example, "I can't wait to play with the soccer ball at the park."

Say what you like about the gift giver and let them know that you're glad they are in your life.

If your little one isn't particularly enthused about her gift and isn't sure how to sincerely thank the giver (maybe she received ballet slippers, but she would have preferred a set of roller skates), remind her that a present is a reflection of the giver's thought, care, and effort, and that the relationship itself is something to express gratitude for. "With my etiquette students, we talk about all the things that go into buying a gift," says Rainer. "I remind them, 'This person loves you enough to spend their own money; they got in their car to go to a store; they thought about what you'd like; they spent time wrapping the present.' You want to show that you're grateful for all of the things that went into giving the gift."