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Q. I absolutely don't know what to give my teenagers for Christmas. Both of them (daughter 14, son 16) just want money. I will give them each a check to shop the sales after Christmas, but I'd like to wrap up a couple of presents for each under the tree. Any suggestions?
A. Whatever gift you wrap up, it will be most eagerly received if it somehow communicates, "You're growing up, I'm supporting this push for independence, and my gift to you proves it."
If your teens ski, ride bikes, or hike mountains, they'd probably love the perfect accompanying outfit, but only if they can pick it out for themselves. Consider going shopping together to buy that outfit, and wrap it up and put it under the tree for Christmas morning.
Stuff their stockings with gift certificates--tickets to movies, fast food restaurants, or their most frequented stores. You might even make your own gift certificate that offers an occasional later curfew.
Since teens spend lots of time in their bedrooms contemplating life, buy them each comfy blankets and pillows to support this teenage inclination.
Most likely they're developing their own interests in music, so a piece of electronic equipment for their respective bedrooms supports this interest and saves your sanity at the same time.
The teenage generation has trendy approaches to eating. Consider buying them their own blender for smoothies, a latte machine, or yogurt maker. By doing so you support their tastes in food different from whatever you might make.
Both of your teens are most likely more sophisticated in the technology world than you are. So find a computer program or piece of equipment that supports this skill beyond what you could understand or use.
Your teens want to appear adult-like so a cellular phone might serve that purpose, along with yours, which is to keep apprised of your teen's whereabouts.
For teens, being part of a peer group is really important. Clothes, jewelry, back packs of a particular brand symbolize acceptance. So stretch yourself, buy that trendy accessory thus supporting your teen's need to be part of their circle of friends.
Your teens undoubtedly yearn for adventures away from you that test their ability to function independently without adult supervision. If you've always said "no" to concerts, buy tickets to an upcoming event. This gift allows you to reconsider your position, while tacitly endorsing your teen's ability to now handle such events, this one time.
Most teens crave managing their own finances, particularly the money they receives from gifts. A debit card proves they're part of the adult world, while actually teaching them how to manage banking, and hopefully budgeting.
If by some miracle you do hit the nail on the gift buying head, picking out precisely what your teenager secretly hoped for, don't except the exuberant response of the younger years. It's best to prepare yourself instead for a cool reaction.
Jan Faull, MEd, is a veteran parent educator and the author of four parenting books, including Darn Good Advice -- Baby and Darn Good Advice -- Parenting. She writes a biweekly parenting advice column for this site and a weekly parenting advice column in the Seattle Times. Jan Faull is the mother of three grown children and lives in the Seattle area.