Teaching Teens About Giving Gifts

Presents don't have to cost kids that much money. Here's some advice and creative ideas for parents to share.

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. She told me that I had to give it back immediately. She said she doubted he bought the bracelet and that it was an inappropriate gift for him to be giving me, anyway. So much for that!

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. But 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 right approach

Your teen will likely get more out of the act of “giving” than the person receiving the gift. However, if parents do the purchasing, that’s not the case. Teens need to do the giving themselves, even if funds are running low. After all, it’s the thought that counts.

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

And overdoing it with expensive jewelry or electronics is not the answer.

Awesome ideas

Making things by hand or personalizing the gift, however, are great ways to express your affection for someone. Here are some ideas that’ll help your teen tap into his or her talents and interests to give a memorable gift!

  • Picture portrait. If your teen’s good at drawing, she might create a portrait of her boyfriend from a photograph of him participating in his favorite sport or pastime.
  • Home-cooked meal and treats. If your son likes to cook, suggest that he invite his girlfriend to dinner and make the meal himself. Or your daughter can make batches of homemade cookies and package them in cute containers to hand out to friends.
  • Way with words. If your child is the literary type (or the gift recipient is), he could buy a dictionary and highlight every word that reminds him of the person he’s giving the dictionary to. Use the words to design a custom cover for the dictionary.
  • Cool collage or scrapbook. For this, all your teen needs are some magazines, photos, glue sticks and a scrapbook or cardboard for mounting his or her masterpiece. Of course, the sky’s the limit for scrapbook aficionados.
  • An awesome experience. Sometimes we get so fixated on “stuff.” Show your teen that the best gifts are the experiences we have and the time we spend with those we care about. For instance, your son could plan a day dedicated to his girlfriend’s favorite things and interests. If she’s an art lover with dreams of visiting Paris, he could take her to the Detroit Institute of Arts, then stop for a decadent lunch at a local dessert spot.

Interested in finding the perfect gift for your teenager? Browse these gift ideas for tweens and teens.

This post was originally published in 2010 and has been updated for 2016.


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