With less than a week left until Christmas, family members all over the world are making silent, solemn, last-minute promises to be nice and not naughty this season when they gather together to celebrate the holidays.

No time signifies the special bonds of family more than Christmas. But too often, instead of familial peace, such gatherings disintegrate into verbal free-for-alls followed by abrupt, dramatic exits.

There are almost as many culprits for these explosions as there are white whiskers in Santa’s beard. Generational conflicts. Political differences. Seasonal pressures. Too much eggnog. Grandma getting run over by a reindeer.

 
 

Why even the wonderful tradition of exchanging gifts can lead to Grinch-like misadventures.

Obviously, not all the reasons for family holiday disputes are easy to address, but in the spirit of the season, here are a few last-minute offerings for grandparents (and actually all relatives) about gifting that, if followed, should greatly reduce any potential problems in that area.

Talk to the Parents First

You may be excited because you assume that you have found just the perfect gift for each of your grandchildren, special ones that will show your great love and they will enjoy forever.

However, we all know what can happen when we assume. Always consult parents before actually delivering your gifts to your grandkids. In this case fathers (and even more often mothers) actually do know best.

Avoid Giving Gifts That Are Loud

You might be convinced that your grandson is destined to become the next Ringo Starr or John Bonham. But think before purchasing that 7-piece drum kit the music store salesman swears is just perfect for the budding young drummer. In fact, don’t ever even consider any loud gift until following suggestion #1.

Avoid Christmas Gifts That Are Large

Does your granddaughter really need a McMansion-size dollar house with sleeping room for 16? Of course, if you followed suggestion #1 and the parents have said OK, then buy away. You can even add the 6-car garage extension if you want.

Avoid Overly Luxurious Gifts

What child wouldn’t want to take an all-expense week-long trip with grand mom and grandpop to London, Paris or New York City. The answer is many. And probably even more parents might have some reservations about such as excursion.

But what if you really want to give this? Again, before making any concrete plans, follow suggestion #1. Maybe mom and dad will be so excited that they will want to join in, too.

Avoid Age Inappropriate Christmas Gifts

Of course, your grandchildren are absolutely advanced geniuses. I know mine are. But that doesn’t mean they are ready for the collected works of William Shakespeare or William Faulkner at age five.

The age idea should also be applied in reverse. Season tickets to the Children’s Puppetry Center probably won’t be appreciated by your teenage grandchildren unless they are planning on becoming the next Jim Henson.

Consider Your Other Grandchildren in the House

Your 10-year-old granddaughter Leia or your 9-your-old grandson Luke might really love the latest Rogue One Star Wars Lego set. However, consider how many Lego sets remain unopened in closets for fear that younger brothers or sisters might swallow the pieces.

Consider the Other Grandparents

In an ideal world, grandparenting would not be a competition. However, not all grandparents are financially equal. Others grandparents (or parents) may consider your gift an attempt to show them up or buy love from your grandchildren. That doesn’t mean you can’t buy the gifts you want; it just means to consider the other family implications before you do.

Some Final Words: Consider My Aunt Florence

Some people are naturally good at giving gifts. Some aren’t. But don’t despair if you are in the second category. People can change, especially at Christmas time. Think Ebenezer Scrooge or the Grinch.

I know from real-life experience that this is true. When I was a teenager in the 1960s, invariably my Aunt Florence would give me the worst gifts every Christmas. I can’t recall all the seasonal horrors, but I do remember on my 16th Christmas she gave me a size 3X orange and yellow sweater and a pair of bright baby blue socks. I never wore either gift. Although, now that I think about it, I might have used the sweater for a blanket on a few occasions.

But, by the time our son Michael was a teenager in the 1980s, Aunt Florence had really upped her giving game. Knowing that Michael was a 3-sport athlete for his high school and that his team stopped at McDonald’s after every away game or match, she would give him a few books of McDonald’s coupons, which truly was a great gift that kept on giving.

So, if you find yourself mired in a Christmas gift quandary, just ask yourself this question – what would (the new, improved) Aunt Florence do?

Equipped with that answer (and remembering to follow suggestion #1 above), rest assured that even Santa himself couldn’t select a better gift.

Obviously, the suggestions above don’t cover all the tips grandparents could use about Christmas gifts. What suggestions or advice would you offer to keep family Christmas time merry and bright? Please share in the comments and join the conversation.

Dave PriceDave Price is a retired journalist and educator now establishing a freelance writing/speaking/consulting practice in Atlanta, Georgia. He’s specializing in four subjects – issues on aging, grandparenting, the Baby Boom generation, and classic rock music. In between writing articles, touring around with his wife of 4 decades, playing with his grandkids, dining on great regional food, and napping, he’s working on a nonfiction book about the Baby Boomers and their relationship with music today. Please visit Dave’s author page and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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