7 Gift Ideas to Help You Shop for Your Teen this Holiday Season

7 Gift Ideas to Help You Shop for Your Teen this Holiday Season

One of the biggest questions I get from my family is, “What does my teenage daughter want as far as Christmas gifts?” Since she’s become a teenager, I’m sure many of you can relate, the gift purgatory has risen to great heights waiting in closets and floors to be re-gifted the following year to whoever is “blessed” enough to get them.

She is a toss-up of “I’m too old for that” with a dash of “I want the cute little gifts the littles get because it brings out the 5-year-old in me” kind of gift receiver. How can anyone possibly understand what to buy for a teenager without feeling the bland seemingly non-sentimental gift of a gift certificate but also avoiding the remorse of your gift you really thought they would loveeeee possibly being re-gifted next year?

Now, you may also be wondering where has the meaning of Christmas gone and how come they can’t just be happy with you get them because gifts shouldn’t be the focus anyway?

Well, I’m going to challenge you to step back from yourself for a minute and take them into consideration. I hear what you are saying but wouldn’t you want them to truly light up and actually love the gift you get them?

Think about yourself for a second. You know you have received your fair share of “I can’t believe they got me this” moments. For instance, one year in the first year of my marriage I was going through a major conflict with my in-laws (we were living with them…I know I know…mistake number one!) and Christmas rolls around where I put my best face forward and tried to put any signs of duress underneath the Christmas tree skirt. However, it didn’t stay there for long. My husband gives me my first gift and at the time I didn’t know it was him who got it for me because we did a Secret Santa.

I opened up the package only to find a book called, “Bait of Satan: Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense.” I was mortified. To me it was a big finger pointing in my direction basically saying I was the problem.

Now this book ended up being a really good book (when I finally read it two years later). However, let’s just say it was wrong timing especially in front of the very in-laws whom I was having issues with. I felt sort of better when I found out it was my hubby who bought it but the damage was done and Christmas was ruined that year. I’m sure we may all have a story like this or have witnessed this happen.

All of this to say, when you get gifts that don’t suit you at all you or speak to a place of hurt you end up completely feeling misunderstood, sometimes to the point of being insulted. With teenagers, this is a commonplace thing because they deal with it in many areas of their life.

Why enforce this feeling that seeks to isolate them more from the gift giver instead of what I hope we all want and that is to bring them closer?

Yes, Christmas should focus on the true meaning of Who our Lord and Savior is but if gift giving is a part of your Christmas celebration then why not do it with the intention of giving something they truly want and love. Especially because with gift giving there happens to be all the other emotional connection we may never have thought of, like feeling misunderstood, ignored, or favoritism to siblings, etc.

Will we always get it right? No, but that’s okay because at least we can walk away knowing we tried our best and didn’t come at it half-heartedly. Here are just a few gift ideas to help you in this process:

1) Wish lists

Yes, it’s that simple. Just ask them what they want. I will have my daughter give me a list of what she wants and I get the control of picking what I’m going to give her.

Tip: Get what’s on the list, including the brand name, and not something that is similar to the item but less expensive. Otherwise, it might end up in the purgatory pile. Either get exactly what it is or not at all.

Now you may be worrying about your budget and the challenge to afford big ticket items. If that’s the case, then give them a dollar amount. For instance, give them notice ahead of time that they have a $50 limit so they aren’t surprised or disappointed when you look over their list and ask them to change it.

Also, remind them different products and wish items cost different amounts. This way if their sibling got 5 things and they only got 1 thing but they all add up to the same amount then they can’t upset thinking the other sibling is favored. Remind them because most teens haven’t started shopping yet so they might not understand this concept.

Companies like Amazon.com give customers the option to set up wish lists so people can buy from there. I’ve seen so many articles on how this is frowned upon but really? There are a lot of other things to worry about in this world and if this can help you then why not?! Who doesn’t love a wish list? Also, remind them to make sure their Amazon.com or another website wish list is up to date so you don’t get something they already have but left it on the wish list.

2) Gift certificates

Now I know gift certificates may seem really impersonal but when used correctly they are pretty awesome.

Tip: Wait until they want something to use it. Don’t force them to use it because they have it. At this point, almost all gift certificates don’t have an expiration date, unless otherwise stated, so it can be a real-life saver when something does pop up.

I know they get a bad rep but they can definitely be a great gift for teens. A lot of the times teens have been keeping their eye on something all year and with the help of a gift certificate along with money they may have been saving they can finally get whatever that item is.

Ask them where they shop or what are their favorite stores are (sometimes they have a favorite store but it might be out of their budget so they don’t shop there but it doesn’t mean they don’t want to) and get one from there.

If you want to make it more personal, ask them to send you a picture with the gift they chose so you can take part in the excitement of it or offer to take them to the store to go buy it.

If you are lead while at the store, you can chip in for tax or add something else to the cart. Gift certificates don’t have to be impersonal. These are definitely ways to help keep it personal.

3) Experiences

Teens are often so bogged down with homework and other school activities they may not get a chance to go out and enjoy themselves. People in general are pulling away from materialistic items and are now more focused on having experiences.

By giving them an experience, you can be rest assured it’s something that will help add to their character and growth as a person.

Tip: Of course, this should be healthy, Godly, and appropriate experiences. You want to add to their life not take away or possibly traumatize them (strip clubs, drug driven raves or concerts, etc., be present and do research so you know what you are agreeing to…unfortunately, some people do think some of these things are a “passage” into adulthood or think it’s cool to help them take part in these things…stop it!).

For instance, we happen to live about 40 minutes from NYC and from the time my daughter was 7 years old tickets to a Broadway Show has been either a Christmas or birthday gift. Either her grandparents or my husband and I will keep an ear out for one that interests and then go buy tickets. It’s one of our favorite gifts because it’s something we can experience together and we have memories for a lifetime.

This will look differently for everyone because we all have our different interests.

Maybe a rock concert, sports event, or specific vacation they’ve always wanted. Also, we will usually get a babysitter for the littles and take our teenager out for one on one time with Broadway shows or something that’s not as appropriate for the little ones.

Everyone’s situation is different financially or otherwise but ask God for a way to make something special for your teen happen this year in the form of an experience.

This also helps initiate conversation about your teen’s interests. When they know you are interested in what they like, it helps build a bridge from their world to yours.

4) Activities

This is kind of similar to experiences except that you might not necessarily be a part of it directly or it’s something that runs an extended period of time like sports or a dance class.

For example, this past year we asked people to get our middle daughter either clothes or a donation to a summer baking camp for her birthday. People responded enthusiastically and were more than willing to donate. We ended up only paying for half of the camp and the response we got from our middle daughter was so sweet. It was something she could look forward to and it was awesome to witness how friends and family members were genuinely excited to help her experience one of her favorite activities. This can be the same with teenagers.

Activities, especially when there are a number of kids, can get expensive.

Maybe they are really into science and always wanted to go to a summer camp or college hosted specialized event. They might be into makeup and would love to go to a makeup enthusiast trade show or pay for makeup classes at a makeup studio.

It will help get them out into the world. They can get a better idea of their skills and interests while also opening up opportunities for their future. Also, they can add these experiences to their resumes when they first start working giving them an upper hand into the work force.

5) Food gift certificates

Who doesn’t love to eat?! Teens are definitely known to be foodies (people who love to eat…I connect with them in this way…loll!). We know they eat like every fifteen minutes. Even with those teens who don’t seem to eat at all, they can still be pretty particular about what they consume. Sushi gets to be expensive! Plus, vegan and healthy eating are on the rise especially with millennials so maybe a gift certificate to their favorite health food store would help either their parent’s or their own wallet.

Getting them gift certificates to Starbucks or to their favorite restaurant is definitely one way to their heart.

For generations, eating together has been a way to connect with one another. Use it as an opportunity to connect with them. Offer to pick them up and take them out to eat or for a latte.

Tip: I would offer to hang out with JUST them for now because sometimes it’s good to have separate time alone without a bunch of friends tagging along. It gives them the opportunity to open and talk about issues they may feel too self-conscious about or may not trust their friends fully to do it around them. [Again, this is to build a foundation for healthy, Godly, and appropriate friendship with the teen in your life]

Connecting with you on this level will help add to their community and support system of people they trust if they feel like they have no one to talk to which can be another gift in itself.

Food is just the means to get together. Hopefully, the gain is not just in the pounds from an amazing meal but a fullness in community and Christ driven conversation.

6) Personalize something

Now I know you may be thinking this may end up being one of the items that end up in the closet somewhere but I’ve noticed when a gift is given that has either been hand-made or personalized in some way it’s the presentation that matters. This means an explanation of how it was made and why it was made a certain way is important.

Stories behind personalized items gives it significance and a reason to make it special.

For instance, if you make a t-shirt blanket let them know it can be held onto for college so when they are homesick they have a piece of home and fond memories to hold onto. If it’s a mug with their name on it, make sure you add a personal message like, “I pray the warmth of this drink will remind you of my love for you!”

Tell them how special they are and all the POSITIVE thoughts you thought about them while making it. It’s something they will definitely reflect on later.

A photo album with fun memories, a journal bible signed by her friends and family, an ornament dedicated to them, anything with hand writing or personalized with their name makes it unique to them. Therefore, it will be less likely they will want to get rid of it.

7) Jesus inspired-

This is something I will always add on top of whatever else I buy. By adding something Jesus inspired, it gives me a chance to point back to Christ especially during this season. It may not be something they necessarily want but you never know when it will come in handy. Usually, I choose something in the form of a book with a theme directed to what I believe my daughter is dealing with at the time.

I firmly believe in finding items to help speak life and God’s truth into them through the voices and motivation behind the Christ inspired creators.

This could also be in the form of Christian summer camps, journal bible, going to a concert of their favorite Christian band, iTunes gift card dedicated specifically for a worship album, or a seminar with their favorite Christian speakers. This may be a good time to invite one or two friends to join in the experience.

Pray about it and allow God lead you to the right gift even if it doesn’t make sense to you. He works in mysterious ways.

Regardless of how you choose to add Christ to the gifts under the tree, I pray it will be a blessing to your home and produce seeds that will multiply a hundredfold.


I pray this helps you on your journey for finding a special gift for your teen and that you will find an amazing gift for them. It’s seems easier with the littles because usually they enjoy whatever it is you give them but we can’t give up on our older ones. We must remember teens are going through a lot more than we sometimes know and it may not be about the gift at all but the feeling behind it or the hidden message the enemy is trying to add to the wrapping.

Again, are we always going to get it right? No, but at least we know we tried and we can always ask how to make it better for the next time.

Let them know you are learning who they are because it is the first time you are parenting them specifically and who they are in this season of their life. They are important and you want them to genuinely enjoy what’s bought for them. Ask for and in return show grace in the process of it all.

Baskets of Blessings,

Nina D.


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Besides loving Jesus, coffee, great books, and the Autumn season. I am a wife to an amazing man of God, a stay-at-home-Mommy to 3 beautiful girls, one who is an amazing teenager. I have volunteered at my church’s Youth Group working with teens from 7th-12th grade for the past 11 years and have recently transitioned out to work on my online ministry. I have an Associate’s in Criminal Justice, a Bachelor’s in Psychology, and currently working on my Master’s in Religion.

8 Things NOT to do to Your Teen this Holiday Season

Thanksgiving and Christmas are here and I’m sure there are many family events to be had if they haven’t happened already. They can either bring extreme amounts of joy as the family gathers or extreme anxiety depending on history. Either way, there are some definite “not to dos” when it comes to interacting with your teenager around family members and friends.

I remember being a teen and either having these things happen to me or watching it happen to my friends. Even now in my adulthood, I’ve witnessed countless interactions between parent and child that set my teeth on edge. It’s hard to watch the shoulders of a teenager slump and their spirit be destroyed in a matter of seconds just by the power of someone’s words.

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” (Prov. 18:21)

I want you and your family to eat good fruits. To be a representation of Christ’s love and affirmation to everyone who is a witness regardless if they agree or not. Be prepared to defend your family and your choices as a parent especially if you didn’t grow up Christian. Stand confident on what you decide as a family and the way you all treat each other. Remember, your teenager was also made in the image of Christ. People aren’t just watching, heaven is too.

Here are some things NOT to do when visiting with family and friends while interacting with your teenager (this just doesn’t have to be for the holidays either but also in general)

1) Embarrass them-

Now I know a lot of families like to joke around and roast each other. Our family is definitely one of those. I’m not saying not to have a good time but be aware of the direction the conversation is going and take cues from your teenager. One of the many signs you are embarrassing them is when they say, “Stop.”

Plain and simple.

Apologize and then shift the conversation. Embarrassing them may seem like a fun way to get attention but you are losing your teen’s trust. We are called to protect them and this includes their ability to feel comfortable and safe in your presence including when there’s an audience. They have many vulnerabilities, let’s not point them out. The enemy is already doing that on a full time basis.

2) Name call-

Aside from terms of endearment, calling your teenager names is completely unacceptable. Again, they were made in the image of Christ and even when YOU have messed up a thousand times God still calls you by your identity in Him not by the shadows of your mistakes. We are called to do the same.

It’s not only abusive but it sets the tone for how they think of themselves. I remember being at a birthday party my daughter was invited to and a father of one of the teens there proceeded to call her, “Sasquatch and Big Foot” and talked about her weight. Immediately, she looked at me embarrassed and told him to stop. If that didn’t stop him, my death stare definitely did. We wonder why so many teens are dying from eating disorders, severe depression, etc.

Words are powerful. It can either save them from the pit or push them deeper into it.

Also, don’t be afraid to speak up for a teen. I have zero shame setting someone straight and defending a teen. Adults usually won’t listen to a teen but when confronted with truth from another parent or adult they may feel the heat from an unsupportive audience and hopefully change their tone.

3) Talk bad about them-

This may seem like name calling but this includes having conversations with relatives about how badly they are doing or what you don’t like about them. It could be about their school grades, how they act just like their father, the new boyfriend you don’t like, or their friends. Everything negatively attached to them is a reflection of who they are or who you think they are. They will take offense.

Even if you think they are not listening, I promise you they are.

I don’t care if they are in another room playing video games, headphones on with a hoodie pulled over, or outside with cousins. The enemy has a strategic way of allowing dishonoring talk to enter into your teenager’s ears. Either they were already listening or the “perfect” moment happens when they catch your words, and they will be crushed.

Your teen needs to overhear you talking great and amazing things about them.

There’s something about the idea of “overhearing” someone talk amazing things about you behind your back that makes their words feel more genuine. They will walk around with a straighter back. Confidence is often shown in posture.

We all need support and a place to vent our frustrations but we need to set a special time for that. In a coffeehouse, your best friend’s home, a phone call while they are at school, the point is to set a time where you know they will not be around and the threat of them hearing isn’t there.

4) Put them in uncomfortable positions-

Now with the holidays, you may be staying over at a family’s or friend’s house due to distance or tradition. Listen to your teenager and make the call especially when something seems off. Even if it feels awkward, find the best means to communicate you and your family’s wishes for accommodations. For instance, I always feel better writing so I will either write or email if I’m feeling uncomfortable with a certain detail.

Talk about sleeping arrangements ahead of time so you can check in with your teenager to make sure they feel comfortable with them.

This way it’s not a surprise to anyone and they can communicate how they truly feel in the safety of your home without the fear of hurting someone’s feelings or being forced to stay somewhere they aren’t comfortable with. We are still called to protect them. Feel free to ask questions. Unfortunately, many sexual abuse cases have happened and are more common with family and family friends. You don’t want to continually put them in a compromising situation where they are accessible.

5) Forget them-

So many times, you will see a teenager standing awkwardly in the corner while adults are deep into conversation and younger siblings are playing with younger cousins. Include them in conversation. I’m blessed to have people in my teenager’s life who care and want to hear about her life. They make it a point to ask her questions, lead her into deep theological discussion, and help bring reflection into where she is at life. She has always been the older one with siblings and cousins so when a person goes out of their way to include her it is definitely noted.

Also, everyone’s situation is different but if you can don’t sit them at the kids table unless they have cousins their age who they can converse with or they are absolutely in love with younger kids in general. I’ve seen some teens who love taking care of the littles and want to be with them. Otherwise, include them in conversation. Allow the older generation to speak life into them. Allow them to be educated by healthy strong men and women. Again, these kinds of people may not exist in your family so you might want to keep them away but check in with your teen throughout any holiday event so they feel seen.

Never be afraid to ask your teen what they are comfortable with. They have opinions and they matter. Just because you had to deal with certain stuff doesn’t mean they have to also.

6) Threaten them with violence-

There have been many times where I’ve witnessed parents threaten violence on their teens during family events. I come from a cultural background where it’s like a badge of honor to do this. I’ve heard things like, “Talk one more time and I’ll punch you in the face…” “Do you want me to beat you in front of everyone?” I was in an abusive relationship where this type of language was used and it’s so hurtful and embarrassing. All eyes are on you waiting for something to happen. What kind of love is that?

God does not call us to mean, He calls us to be just.

Now I’m not saying, “Don’t discipline them.” I’m saying don’t abuse your power over someone you are supposed to love and protect.

When talking to my teen about these “not to dos”, she added, “not to threaten violence even if it’s just playing around.” You never know how the person is going to take it. As men and women of God, we want people to experience God’s peace in your presence. The world threatens them with enough violence.

7) Lose family dynamic-

Now people may or may not agree with me but I do believe in setting standards for your family especially with holidays and special events. Celebrating holidays helps create memories and bonding. I’m not opposed to other people coming to your home to experience a safe and Godly environment but I am opposed to allowing teenagers to celebrate outside the home away from their nuclear family. This is especially when teenagers start dating and they want to celebrate with their boyfriend or girlfriend. Unless your teenager is engaged, then there is no reason for them to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with someone who may just be around for a few months. Plus, you don’t know what they allow in their homes including Christians! Unfortunately, closed and locked bedrooms doors are common in homes with teenagers.

The reality this day and age is that parents aren’t always off and there are few opportunities for dinners together. Obviously, some parents do have to work during the holidays or some nuclear families are toxic and abusive. However, if you’re just allowing your son or daughter to celebrate somewhere else because “they’re a teenager” then you are robbing everyone of time that is quite limited and crucial in creating bonds that can last a lifetime.

8) Discipline them with an audience-

Anytime discipline happens, if at all possible, bring it outside of the audience at hand. Just like you don’t correct your spouse in front of people, it’s the same with your teenager.  The only exception I would say is if there is a severe show of disrespect and it needs to be corrected immediately like cursing out a family member at the dinner table.

Removing them from an audience will help ensure you have their undivided attention and your relationship with your teen won’t be compromised to the expectations of others.

Take them outside or into another room where you are able to have a conversation and correct them there. Use words like, “Help me understand…” and ask, “Why did you do that?” Sometimes we are so quick to shut teenagers down that we don’t give the opportunity to explain themselves. Let them vent, give them time with support, and if apologies are needed then seek it at a time where not everyone is present. Bring in only those who are necessary to bring in but creating drama where everyone is a witness will severely damage your relationship.

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ (Matt. 18:15-16)

It should go without saying that beating, hitting, cursing at, threatening, is an unhealthy way to discipline your teenager. It will only add fuel to the fire and may be a reason why they are acting out to begin with.

They have to learn to express themselves without the threat of violence. Otherwise, their body will learn to respond from adrenaline rather than a place of calm and rationality. I’m speaking from the ghost of the teenager I was, where communication and violence were one in the same. Save your teenager from future job loss, divorce, and repeated offenses against your grandchildren by giving them the space to learn how to communicate now.

Obviously, these are not perfect, everyone’s situation is going to be unique but I pray these are guidelines you can step back and reflect on. Teenagers are people. They are the next generation. What are we passing on? What generational habits and curses do we want to stop? If we are not allowing our teenager to be a person, ask yourself why. If you need help, ask. Talk to your Youth Pastor, parents, teachers, and trusted people around you for advice and direction. Allow them to speak honestly without offense. It does take a village to raise a child and you have the ability and the resource in Jesus Christ to give them a great one.

I pray the Lord will protect you and your family as you figure out how to best create beautiful holiday memories with every member of your family including your amazing teen. In His Name, Jesus Christ, amen!


Baskets of Blessings,

Nina Daugherty


Image 1: Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Image 2: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Besides loving Jesus, coffee, great books, and the Autumn season. I am a wife to an amazing man of God, a stay-at-home-Mommy to 3 beautiful girls, one who is an amazing teenager. I have volunteered at my church’s Youth Group working with teens from 7th-12th grade for the past 11 years and have recently transitioned out to work on my online ministry. I have an Associate’s in Criminal Justice, a Bachelor’s in Psychology, and currently working on my Master’s in Religion.