Are Your Kids Too Old for Gifts?

Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it's impossible to get away from the message that we should be making a list and checking it twice. We wondered if adult children ever age out of the gift list.

Rustic present boxes
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Not really, according to a very random survey among boomer women, both online and at a local gym. “You’re never too old for gifts from parents,” said a 25-year-old trainer who overheard the discussion. “At least I hope not!”

Most moms surveyed, however, have modified their approach to gift giving, with some taking requests and noting that “surprises” can disappoint. While clothes are still a favorite, other gifts reflect changing lifestyles.

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Among the holiday presents that will be given this year:

Things for the home. Kitchen gadgets include a Crock-Pot, an electric skillet and a juicer. One mom was surprised by a request for a TV since most millennials watch shows online. A boomerang daughter, now on her own and on a tight budget, is getting a junior membership to her favorite museum and grocery gift cards.

Financial help. While some parents don’t mind writing a check, others prefer the money be targeted for a specific purpose. One mom was happy to contribute to a “paint the house” fund for her son and his wife. Another wrote, “My youngest and his wife are getting a note from us that their loan has been forgiven. That’s the gift of financial freedom, and they will be thrilled.”

Gift cards. Many adult children, either on their own for the first time or with young families, are on tight budgets. Some moms will give gift cards that will pay for “little luxuries” such as a date night to a restaurant and a movie, a spa treatment or online music and books. Some thoughtful moms also include either money for a babysitter for faraway families or an offer to take the grandkids for a specific night.

Experiences. This category was a favorite with many. Calling it the “gift of memories,” one mom wrote, “We revisit something we did as a child and take them now as adults — e.g., big musical show, Las Vegas, Disneyland or even working in a soup kitchen together now that they have an ‘older perspective.’ ” A North Carolina mom is meeting her New Hampshire college-age daughter for a long weekend in Charleston, S.C. “Our own Gilmore Girls weekend will be our Christmas gifts to each other,” she writes. Another family will celebrate a college senior’s last holiday break (he will be working next year) with a family trip to the mountains. On a smaller scale, other experiences include gifts of concert tickets and passes to a special museum exhibit.

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Why are experiences so popular? Research finds that experiences deliver more lasting satisfaction than material things. “We quickly adapt to the material goods, but the experience endures in the memories we cherish, the stories we tell and the very sense of who we are,” wrote Gary Belsky and Tom Gilovich, a Cornell professor whose studies found that people are both happier and more grateful for experiences than for other gifts.

So perhaps it was no surprise when we asked moms what they want from their adult children. Most agreed with one who said, “Time together, sharing the holiday and making more memories.”

Mary W. Quigley’s blog, Mothering21, tackles parenting of emerging adults and beyond.

Photo: Melpomenem/iStock

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