My son came home from college with a suitcase full of holiday gifts for the entire family. He actually put thought into each one. I was shocked. But while I thought it was nice, my younger son felt bad. He hadn’t bought anything for any family members. The thought hadn’t occurred to him, which upset me. I want my children to be thoughtful, especially with each other.
During the last few weeks, several of my friends have asked about how to handle family gift giving. Is it necessary for teens to give each other gifts and give parents gifts?
Ask a teen what they want for the holidays and they can rattle off a list in a few minutes. It likely includes something electronic and expensive. But ask them what they plan to give others and the list is much shorter — if it even exists.
It can be tough to teach children the value of giving in a season when they’re surrounded by messages about the value of getting.
Here’s the thing: Your teen will likely get more out of the act of “giving” than the sibling who receives the gift. While you might want to offer to help with shopping, teens need to do the giving themselves, even if funds are running low. They can always make gifts like chocolate chip cookies or a picture frame. They also can do extra chores around the house or neighbor to earn money if necessary.
While giving to charity teaches them to be caring, I feel like giving to their siblings or parents or grandparents teaches them family is important and worthy of their thoughtfulness this time of year. It sets them up for a lifetime of being charitable towards each other. I still remember when my little brother who was so annoying to me bought me a paper doll book when I was young. It didn’t cost him much and I was thrilled with it. Today, my brother still comes through with gifts he knows I will appreciate.
A few years ago, my children set a price limit on how much they would spend on each other. It wasn’t much but at least they all focused on giving rather than just receiving. It’s amazing how much you can get for $5 when you put thought into it!
By adolescence, young people have the capacity to think and act independently from their parents – to give conscious attention to giving. Okay, so maybe we need to nudge our teens to put down their iPhones, take out their earbuds and think about what they are going to give their annoying brother or sister. I tell my teens that best gifts show the person that you know them well and want to make them happy. All it takes is some thought.
A friend of mine doesn’t agree with me — at all. She believes her teens should spend their time and money giving to charity rather than each other. While I understand her perspective, I believe showing generosity for others begins at home. To me, the lessons you teach your children about being thoughtful toward family are as important as those about being thoughtful to strangers in need.
What are your thoughts on teen gift giving to family? Do you encourage it in your home? Do your kids buy you holiday gifts?