QUESTION: It is probably too late for this year, but is there a way to coordinate children's holiday gifts so that my daughter does not get four of the same toys from family members? We are a family with several stepparents, and step in-laws, and lots of aunt and uncles who don't communicate about gift giving. How can I politely “suggest” ideas or “help” with gift selections?
CALLIE'S ANSWER: I think it is OK to give suggestions. “Jane said she would really like a new Barbie doll, if you need some ideas about what she wants for Christmas.” I always love suggestions and ideas!
LILLIE-BETH'S ANSWER: Good question, and I'm sure people struggle with this in all kinds of family situations — grandparents as well as stepparents. It certainly helps if people approach any solution to this dilemma with the idea that the gift-giving is not a competition but a way to help loved ones or brighten their lives at this time of year. If everyone is trying to do what's best for the recipient, then the situation is easier to work out with less tension.
If you have realized this is a problem, then communicate with those involved earlier next year. Amicably ask them whether they have made any gift-giving plans and direct accordingly if it looks like everyone is trying to give something similar. My children's relatives usually ask what they need or if their ideas are OK, and I appreciate their thoughtfulness not only in asking me but also in their gifts to my children.
HELEN'S ANSWER: You could submit a list by email to people who are giving gifts to your child. It could be four specific items that your child wants or needs and each list could be different. Email it in enough time for people to shop for these specific items. It will be more work for you, but it will get the message across. Communicating in a positive manner is the key here. It is nice they care.
Many stores also have a registry for Christmas gift-giving. I have not been a big fan for this, except for weddings and showers, but in this case, it might work. Tell everyone that the registry is in a particular store (Dillard's, Target, BC Clark) and that your daughter received so many duplicates this year, the registry would be a great place for everyone to purchase and record gifts.
GUEST'S ANSWER: Heather Warlick, MOOD Publication Editor: Here's an idea: Create a “Wish List” on one of several popular online websites and add all the items on your child's Christmas list. You can email this list to the buyers in your family. They can easily purchase items, combining several items into one shipping order.
The list can be sorted by “purchased,” “unpurchased” or “all” so it's clear what has and hasn't been purchased. Happy Holidays!
Callie Gordon is twenty-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus. You'll also find a guest answer. To ask an etiquette question, email email@example.com. For more 20-40-60 etiquette, go to blog.newsok.com/partiesextra.