I have three children ages 16, 18 and 20 and also eight nieces and nephews ranging in age from 12 to 32. My sticky situation involves the holidays, namely Christmas. We don’t exchange gifts for the kids anymore, but still give them cards and money. I don’t believe this should continue forever, but one of my sisters disagrees.
Is there an appropriate age or milestone that we should stop doing this: 18, 21, or when the kids graduate college? And how do I approach the subject with my other brothers and sisters? Sometimes, we don’t even see the kids for the holidays and we’re just pushing around cards and envelopes.
Stressed Out in New York
Dear Stressed Out,
You have many options, but you will need the cooperation of your siblings to make it happen. You discuss it with your siblings, and present it as a fait accompli to the younger members of the family.
No. 1: Open a mutual-fund account for the kids in your family, and set an automatic monthly investment so that by the time they are ready to buy a home 20 or 30 years later, the down payment is available. Similarly, you could open a 529 college savings account for your kids.
No. 2: Present a Secret Santa where you all pick names to choose one person to give an actual gift to. You could collectively agree to have a cutoff point for envelopes with money at 18 or 21, at which point they are grand-fathered into the Secret Santa pool. I favor 18. If you’re old enough to vote at 18, you’re old enough to participate. Present it as a positive: It creates a more personalized, fun Christmas full of surprises! It allows family members to really think about what they will give their chosen giftee, and explain why when it’s unwrapped. If money is an issue, be honest about that too. You are certainly not alone, especially this year.
No. 3: You all agree to give the same amount of money: $50 or $100.
No. 4: You give gifts instead of money, but need to stick to a $20 minimum. It will force you to use your imaginations, and come up with something novel.
No. 5: You do a Yankee Swap. It’s similar to a Kris Kringle in that you buy one gift, but you buy a gift for a set amount of money with no one person in mind, and then you all put them in a box and draw straws. For those who are absent, you could draw straws in advance and send them the gift to be opened on Christmas Day, and they can join via FaceTime.
No. 6. Hot potato gift exchange where you pass the gifts and the person who is left holding the gift when the music stops, opens it. You could also try this with musical chairs, but that may not be appropriate for every member of the family, depending on their physical fitness and/or abilities. Given that the world is still in the middle of a pandemic, and cases are on the rise, neither of these options may be available to you this year, so you could simply pick numbers remotely and deliver the gifts by Dec. 25.
The No. 1 priority this year will be to ensure that older members of the family, and those with preexisting conditions are safe. That will be the greatest gift of all.
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