Washington Post Article : Holiday Gift Giving Dilemmas

When Parents Differ on Holiday Gift Giving

Even as the Halloween candy remains on the aisles, the holiday season approaches and the present ”dilemma” comes to a head. Parents can differ greatly on what they want to GIVE and RECEIVE at this time. Many parents in our area have already begun changing the traditional gift giving even at their own child’s birthdays and family celebrations. Instead of the child receiving gifts, guests are asked to bring food donations for a local shelter.

What do you do though when the season for holiday ”giving” rolls around and your spouse has very different ideas (mom wants to donate to charity; dad wants to head to Target)? The best solution is to allow flexibility where you both meet in the middle of the road (even if you think you are right ’ as I am always).

I tell parents to strategize this difficult dilemma by breaking this process up into 3 parts:

  • Recipient list and Budget
  • Communicating Gift Giving Vision
  • Negotiation

The goal is to find common ground at each step and set the stage for future holiday gift giving discussions.

Each parent must first think individually about WHO they are buying for this year including coworkers, family friends, teachers, etc. Create a list and then decide what the BUDGET is for these acts of generosity. Disagree on a dollar amount? Meet in the middle.

Now each person must reveal their own gift giving VISION. Identifying and expressing your own vision is very important to effective negotiation. Perhaps this season’s vision is based on fond childhood memories, anxiously waiting and finally receiving the long awaited gift. Maybe it is the desire to extend your family’s blessings and give to others as way to model for your children. Take turns verbalizing this vision, quietly listen to your partner, and reflect back what you are hearing ’even if you don’t agree. Active listening lessens defenses and creates the opportunity for meeting in the middle.

During the NEGOTIATION phase, tease out any similar gift giving themes, ideas and visions. Identify ways that you and your partner might combine each other’s gift ideas. Can you still buy at the local toy store while also purchasing toys and clothing for a local needy family? Discuss ways to involve the children in the process and create a future gift giving template (maybe each year the children determine a different place to donate their time to a charitable cause). Strategizing early in the holiday season around different gift giving ideas will lessen family stress and support the special spirit in giving.

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