Teens and the Gift of Giving

Teen Present

I had just turned 13 when I came home with this beautiful bracelet from a boy who admired me.  When my mother saw it, she freaked out. She told me that I had to give it back immediately. She said that she doubted he bought the bracelet and that it was an inappropriate gift for him to be giving me anyway. So much for that little bauble!

As it turned out, he had taken the bracelet from his older sister’s jewelry box because he overheard that she would “never wear it again.” Supposedly she was fighting with her boyfriend. There are simpler ways for teens, even for those who don’t have jobs yet, to show their appreciation for peers, coaches, or family members – and these ideas won’t break the bank!

The act of giving

Your teen will likely get more out of the act of “giving” than the person receiving the gift. However, if mom does the purchasing, this is not the case. Teens need to do the giving themselves, even if funds are running low. After all, “It’s the thought that counts.” Some of the most modest gifts I’ve received are those which I cherish the most.

The holidays are a great time for teens to give, not only to friends and family, but to their favorite charity. Dr. Jodi Stoner, a psychotherapist and co-author of Good Manners are Contagious (Spinner Press, 2009), explains, “Small acts of purposeful kindness and giving to charity (not necessarily money, but time) should be part of every teen’s life.” Stoner adds that giving to others “develops integrity and boosts self awareness and self-esteem.” She also says that the act of giving teaches values and adds meaning to children’s lives no matter what age.

Make it personal

Putting a “personal stamp” on gifts is a great idea. My daughter took a photograph of an art piece she created for a contest in which she had to express the theme, “Beauty is …” She put the photograph in an inexpensive, magnetic photo frame and printed out the words, “Beauty is … a teacher who cares.”

For that special someone

If your teen is giving something to a “significant other,” be sure that it is appropriate and that her feelings are reciprocated. Explain to your teen that gift-giving is over the top for a new crush, but is a nice way to express feelings in a relationship.

Overdoing it with expensive jewelry or electronics is not the answer. Making things by hand or personalizing the gift are great ways to express your affection for someone.

Is your teen creative? She might draw a portrait of her boyfriend from a photograph of him participating in his favorite sport or pastime. If your son likes to cook, suggest that he invite his girlfriend to dinner and make the meal himself.

“Sit down with your teens and help them come up with a budget,” Stoner says. “This is a great time to talk about what the gift means. Big ticket items are not appropriate – small, meaningful gifts are.”  She also points out that teens should be responsible for the cost.  If teens are not working, Stoner believes that gifts should come from their allowance. “Otherwise, teens tend to lose perspective on the monetary commitment,” she states.

Myrna Beth Haskell is a feature writer and columnist specializing in parenting issues and children’s development. She is the mother of two teenagers.


TIPs and tales


“My daughter bought a dictionary and highlighted every word that reminded her of her boyfriend. On the cover she made a design that said, “If every word I said could make you laugh I would talk forever.” — Christine Gruenke Kretz, Hillsborough, NJ

“Collage is a great gift. All you need are magazines, photos, glue sticks, and a surface to glue everything to. Teens love collage because they are using pop culture images mixed with their likes or a friend’s likes. It’s a great gift for their friend’s bedroom wall.” — Jessica Galkin, Woodstock, NY

“My 15-year-old daughter and her friends bake cookies and give them out at school to their closest friends for their birthdays.” — Deb Ciccone-Yaeger, Saugerties, NY


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Categories: Tweens and Teens