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Straight Talk for Teens The rules of gift giving in a blended family

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Posted: Friday, December 14, 2012 6:46 am

Dear Straight Talk: My friend thinks she doesn’t need to get her stepdaughter much for Christmas. She says “Emily” will get gifts from her own mom, and her kids won’t get anything from their dad, so buying less for Emily only balances things. I see the logic, but I was that same girl and it was horrible to receive less on Christmas day than the other kids. Yes, I also received from my “other family.” But when everyone opened gifts and there was comparatively little for me, I felt like I didn’t really belong there. My friend is a generous, warm person, so I am taken aback at her stinginess. — “Santa’s Elf”

Taylor, 15, Santa Rosa: At my house, there are three kids from my stepmom and two from my dad. We are old enough to understand value, so rather than equal numbers of gifts, everyone is “spent on” equally. The different houses are separate entities. What the “other” parent is buying is a matter for that house. Each house is a fair house where nobody feels left out.

Lara, 21, Concord: When I was eight, my mom married my stepdad and we had Christmas with his large extended family. We drew names to simplify things and my name wasn’t put in the envelope. My sister and brother got amazing gifts, but nothing was under the tree for me. I didn’t mention I’d been forgotten until we were flying home. The moral of this story: I still have some upset about that Christmas.    

Kira, 20, Moraga: Excuse my language but your friend is an idiot. Who cares what she gets from her other family? She should get equal presents for ALL her kids — INCLUDING her stepdaughter.   

Colin, 19, Los Angeles: The premise of this letter is so disgustingly materialistic I feel like burning everything I own and living in the forest like Thoreau. Too much is taken for granted in this society. Nothing illustrates that more than people who think not getting enough Christmas gifts is a severe violation of human rights. Rant aside, if you give one kid lots and the other little, you’re sending a pretty strong message.

Brandon, 20, Mapleton, Maine: I’m stepfather to a son whose biological father is absent, but his three sets of grandparents (my parents, her parents, biological father’s parents) all buy him gifts. Having only one spoiled brat (!), I’ve never shopped for a blended family, but it occurs to me that if we have our own children, they may be jealous of this. Main rule: keep everything fair (this also means not competing for who gives the most).

Christina, 20, Marysville: Yes, stepchildren may get gifts from their other parent, but that isn’t their fault or choosing. No matter their age, kids will compare — even if no harm is intended. Children of divorce have been through something. Feeling less loved leads to both personal and family problems. Is spending less money on them really worth that?

Dear Santa’s Elf: I couldn’t agree more with the panel. Like Taylor said, each house needs to be a fair house where nobody feels left out or slighted. Let’s hope your friend reads this — or a certain elf delivers the message. —Lauren               

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