Attention Gift-Loving Grandparents…

Deaimagesr Well-Meaning Grandparents of the United States,

                    For over a decade I have heard the laments of moms and dads across the country as they attempt to help their kids appreciate the material possessions they have. These parents don’t want to steal your joy from giving gifts when you visit or at Christmas and birthdays, but they do need your help.  These parents want their kids to be grateful. They want them to understand how much is enough. They want their kids to be content. The problem is that when your arms are filled with presents each holiday or when you always bring the kids a surprise every time you see them, the kids can begin to expect it and can begin to focus on the gifts rather than your visit.

       I totally understand that only a few generations ago, grandparent relationships were woven into the very fabric of what it means to be a family. The idea of regular or excessive gift buying would have been absurd because grandparents played a more significant, daily role in the raising of the children. But with the cultural shift of children growing up and moving away from their hometowns to begin their families in isolation, this role has changed.

          Trust me, I know some of you still live close to your grandchildren, but you don’t see them as often as you’d like because of the busy schedules of their families. Let me blame the American culture again for that one. Rather than open ended days after school or on weekends with endless hours to relax, explore, and connect, America’s kids are stressed with homework, activities, lessons, and sports.

       Since you want to connect with these kids, gifts do seem like a valid way to do that—almost like you want to leave a present behind to remind them of your presence in their lives. But here’s the catch: They often don’t need more STUFF, but they do want and need more of you in their lives. For this holiday season, ponder these thoughts:

  • Consider buying gifts that connect you personally with the child. Craft supplies to complete together or cooking supplies to prepare treats together are great choices.
  • Partner with parents by paying for lessons or an activity. This helps the family financially and also helps you feel more invested each time the child participates in the activity.
  • Give memories rather than stuff. Most kids can’t remember more than two things they received the year before. Instead, pay for an activity you can do with the child like attending a play, concert, or vacation.
  • Consider giving books that you enjoyed reading as a child. This allows you to interact by talking about interesting characters and exciting plot twists.
  • Consider carefully the age of the child. No toddler can appreciate an American Girl doll like a seven-year-old can. And some parents may want to be the ones to give a very special gift.
  • Avoid electronics at any age because they can isolate kids from their families. Let Mom and Dad decide if, what, and when electronics will be brought into the home.
  • Avoid “the hot toy of the season” or over-the-top toys. Many parents don’t want their child to be influenced by the culture of “cool” and rather prefer classic toys like blocks and dress-up.
  • So often less is more. I’ve heard of grandparents taking kids on $500 shopping sprees only to have kids develop an appetite for more and more after such an experience.

       Parents want their kids to be both content and grateful. Consider your own childhood. What lingers in your memories after so many decades? My guess is that it would be the love of people rather than the thrill of any toys.


Have a Merry Christmas!

Marianne Miller



Speak Your Mind