When we ask ourselves what to buy our young adult child for a holiday gift, the natural tendency is to explore what material gift they might want or value. My son is a “gadget” guy, so I immediately think of some trendy electronic device. But, I would like to suggest a different approach to gift-giving for the young adult that can send a meaningful message. Before discussing some possible gifts, let me say that none of these exclude the gift of cash or gift card. Giving a nonmaterial gift and a material gift are not mutually exclusive.
Questions to Ask Yourself
When thinking about a gift for your young adult son or daughter, consider the following questions or criteria:
- What gift can I give that communicates how much I love and value them?
- What gift can I give that supports one or more goals or dreams they have for their lives?
- How can I give something that will support their essential developmental tasks?
The last point deserves some explanation. There’s good evidence to suggest that young adults are searching for something meaningful or exploring ways to make a difference in their lives. “Intention” is about finding meaning or purpose.
First, whether you give a material gift or not, a heartfelt expression of love for your young adult is a gift to be prized. This can be a handwritten letter or card or maybe a gift of something you own and value. In some cases, this may be a ring or something of special meaning that has been handed down to you. It could be a picture from their childhood that you cherish because it portrays the love that you have for them and them for you. You could frame this and include a card and note. Okay, and maybe some cash. The cash will disappear rather quickly, but the picture and note can last a lifetime.
Second, if you know something about their goals in life or their dreams, find some way to get on board with these. If they are thinking of some type of career or unique quality they want to express in their lives, find some way to affirm this. At a minimum, a short card showing your support of their dream but possibly find a material symbol or gift that will help them move toward that dream. Look for a book, painting, sculpture piece that might align with their dream.
Consider Positive Interests
On the developmental tasks starting with identity, think about what positive interests they have that, in some way, define them. These could be music, art, sports, hobbies, etc. Once identified as something that you fully support, think about how you could support that in material or other ways. Paying for guitar, art, or other lessons or buying a ticket to a sporting or musical event that they would appreciate are considerations. On independence, think if a way you can support this. This might involve helping them with a project where you have specific skills that you could teach that would serve them in the future. Handy fathers could offer a gift certificate to teach and help them renovate their house or build something. One father, who played guitar, found a project for him and his son to make a mandolin together. On intimacy, is there some gift that would help your son or daughter develop deeper friendships or support their relationship with their significant other. Is there a way to help with a trip or event they wanted to attend with their friends? With a girlfriend or boyfriend, some restaurant or movie gift cards show support for their relationship. One father of a young adult I know is a gifted cook. Maybe cooking a meal for his son and girlfriend and then taking off for the evening. And lastly, find some way to support their desire to find meaning and make a difference in their lives. If they volunteer for some charity, offer to help by working with them or contributing to the charity. You may want to share with them some special book that has had a profound impact on your life.
In all cases, whether giving them a material gift or not, a card that expresses how much you love them and how important they are to you goes without saying. This message never grows old, nor do they ever grow too old to hear it.
P.S. I came across an article that got me thinking about the importance of giving gifts that really make a difference and have sustaining value. Please click on the link to learn about other nonmaterial ways to give to children and grandchildren of all ages.