Wes: In past Christmas columns we’ve suggested alternative holiday gifts for teens such as travel. This year in light of the ongoing economic downturn, we’ll suggest a few ideas that don’t depend as heavily on spending. Ben and I aren’t trying to add to the recession by suppressing demand, just proposing some lower-cost and perhaps higher-value alternatives.
Time. It’s cliché to believe that teens want nothing to do with their parents or to share any of their time with them. While they are certainly transitioning from child to adulthood, even later teens still enjoy some one-on-one time, as long as those times are tailored to meet their needs. If you know your child, you know what he or she likes and the gift of time and effort in that direction could be worth more than any stocking-stuffer. By the way, “one-on-one” could also mean you taking along your teen’s best friend or romantic partner. Remember, the goal here is to make the time a gift.
Memories. While you’re spending that time, you might as well create some memories. I have no idea where most of my memorabilia from high school now resides, but I have many recollections of my life back then. A great gift is to engage teens in something they’ll never forget. While this might require a little spending, it doesn’t have to wipe out the bank. Rock climbing, go carts, a certificate for a canoe or camping trip in the summer, or a winter survival camp right now. Anything that brings some adventure to your teen’s life.
Ben: Wes is right, one of the principal stresses of Christmas is cost. How can you give good gifts without breaking bank? Try making something.
Maybe you’ve had a bad experience with this. Maybe somebody’s birthday sneaked up on you and you ended up giving your mom a Play Doh ashtray, but homemade gifts are a great opportunity to be thrifty and thoughtful.
When you’re making a gift, play to your talents. Draw, compose, write, sew, whatever you’re good at, but make sure you put some serious effort into it. You can avoid the ashtray fiasco by making the gift personal to the receiver.
Revive an old inside joke or reflect on an old adventure. The great advantage in making something is that you’re essentially giving them a part of you, not something you saw on a shelf at a store.
As you’re hurrying through last-minute shopping this week, brainstorm a few alternatives that might last longer than the usual gifts, and leave you with more for your money in the end.
— Dr. Wes Crenshaw is a board-certified family psychologist and director of the Family Therapy Institute Midwest. Ben Markley is a senior at Free State High School. Opinions and advice given here are not meant as a substitute for psychological evaluation or therapy services. Send your questions about adolescent issues (limited to 200 words) to firstname.lastname@example.org. All correspondence is strictly confidential.