Shopping for Teens

Parenting Expert Jan Faull, MEd, with some gift ideas for teens.
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Q. "Now that my kids are teenagers, I'm finding it hard to shop for them, especially at Christmas. Throughout the year, we really just purchase the necessities, so Christmas has always been fairly big in our family. But nowadays it's difficult for me to buy them clothes, jewelry, or hair products, because their tastes are so different from mine. I don't want to just give them gift certificates on Christmas Day either. How can I choose presents that my teens will like?"

A. If your teenagers ski, ride bikes, or hike mountains, they would probably love the perfect accompanying outfit, but only if they can pick it out for themselves. It's just fine to go out with each separately, buy an outfit, and then wrap it up. Each will be excited to see what the other picked out. Or perhaps take one along to shop for the other, especially if your children have a close relationship. This is a great way for you to learn more about their tastes without giving away your gift-giving plans.

Also, stuff your teens' stockings with gift certificates, maybe not to clothing stores but tickets to the movies, bowling alley, or teen-friendly restaurants. You might even make your own gift certificate that offers an occasional later curfew.

Additionally, consider buying gifts that support your teens as they separate from you and move into adulthood. Here are some to consider.

If your teens...

  • Spend lots of time in their bedrooms, buy a comfy blanket and pillows that support their teenage inclination to contemplate life.
  • Are interested in music, a small stereo for their bedrooms advocates this interest.
  • Are interested in eating, buy a blender for smoothies, or a latte machine or yogurt maker. This supports their taste in food, and empowers them to start cooking on their own.
  • Are sophisticated in the technology world, find a computer program or piece of equipment that supports this skill beyond what you could understand or use.
  • Want to appear adult-like, consider a cellular phone. The phone serves their purpose of being adult-like, but also allows you to keep apprised of their whereabouts.
  • Have a strong desire to be part of a peer group, buy a piece of clothing, jewelry, or a certain backpack of a particular brand or style which symbolizes peer acceptance.
  • Yearn for adventures away from you that test their independence, buy them tickets to an upcoming concert. Do so particularly if you've always said "no" to concerts in the past. This gift allows you to reconsider your position, while tacitly endorsing your teen's ability to handle such an event, this one time.
  • Crave managing their own finances, give each a debit card which proves to them and their friends that they're part of the adult world. The added bonus to this gift is they will have the opportunity to learn how to manage banking, budgeting, and their personal spending habits before going off to college.

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."


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