Saturday, 14 November 2009

How to Choose Gifts for the Difficult Teens

Now you may think that I'm only qualified to write about fashion and beauty products and stuff about the web, but let me tell you this: I am over qualified to tell you about what to buy for teens. Not only have I written three books about buying Gifts - The Shopaholic's Guide to Buying Gorgeous Gifts Online, and The Gift Book (incidentally this didn't start out as a puffing excercise so I'll move on swiftly) but I have three kids, who have now reached the amazing ages of 22, 21 and nearly 19 (no, don't ask).

So. Although when they're tiny you can dictate what you're going to give them, they start getting really fussy, as I remember, at aged about 7 or 8, when you have to think quite a bit harder. The really difficult time starts when they reach the early teens and to be honest it doesn't change from then on, although as they get quite a bit older they become more forward about asking for dosh, rather than a present, because you couldn't possibly get it right. Unfortunately, by that time, you probably can't.

I have found that without a doubt there are three main ways of getting it right.

The first, and the most obvious (but boring) is to ask outright. 'What do you want this Christmas'? I have two kids who are delighted to tell me and one who always looks at me as if I'm mad and says 'no, I'm not going to make it that easy for you, I want a surprise'. Yes, he's the difficult one.

The second is to listen throughout the year to the messages they will undoubtedly be giving you - the 'oh I'd love a pair of those UGG boots', 'I really want a leather jacket' (both the daughter), and a slightly more subtle 'have you seen the latest iPhone, netbook, speakers from the oldest son. The only problem with this is that this one tends to be expensive, because the things they're hankering after are a bit more than they/you can afford normally. You will never get it wrong, however, if you go down this route, as I have proved many a time.

The third, and the one that applies to all older kids whether they belong to you or to someone else, is to do a bit of research. If they're yours, write down all the things they like to do, wear, listen to and buy for themselves including hobbies and sports, clothing brands (difficult this one as they move on in a flash and if you get it wrong you seriously get it wrong) books, movies and music.

If they belong to someone else make the effort and ask the parents or someone else who knows them well, don't ever guess, you'll be wasting your money and they'll think you're a waste of time. Get it right and they'll respect you for ever. A new rugby ball for a rugby addict (I have one of those), an Abercrombie scarf or pair of trakkies for a cool girl (provided you know she likes that brand), tickets to a concert for a band they love, the latest book by their favourite author (provided you know for sure they don't already have it). All these will win you points.

Another word of advice; don't give vouchers unless you have no alternative. It is a cop-out, it will be seen as such, and they often won't be redeemed so you will have wasted your hard-earned cash. I really, really know this one.

With a bit of research you can win that happy smile when your gift is unwrapped, and respect for a long, long time, which from a teen is well worth having. Trust me on this.

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