When to stop gifting with extended family?
December 3, 2015 6:06 AM   Subscribe

For years I gave gift cards to my nieces and nephews. Then they grew up, married and had kids of their own and I switched to giving to my great-nieces and -nephews. How to stop with minimal awkwardness?

Every year I consider dropping the practice as I've never even met most of these kids (We live in different parts of the country and those I've met I've met at a funeral.) but it seems so awkward to do so. The children in question range from about six to college age. One household has the college-age child *and* and a middle-schooler so giving to one feels problematic. Most of them send thank yous, which is nice of them, and their parents often send a thank you gift to my family. Should I stop at a certain age, stop outright, stop when they start having kids? Wait to send till after the new year in preparation to stopping next year?
posted by Morrigan to Human Relations (12 answers total)
Just stop, and don't say anything. What are they going to do, say "hey, where's my gift?"? I sure hope not. They'll figure it out.
posted by Melismata at 6:22 AM on December 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Some of my aunts used to send me gifts when I was a kid and then stopped when I was an adult. I wasn't at all offended or upset. I get that you've switched to sending things to their kids, which was nice of you, but I suspect those kids won't be upset about not receiving a gift from someone they've never met or rarely met. If they are upset, their parents can use the incident as a teaching opportunity. You can just stop this year and you don't need to apologize, explain, or prepare anyone for a transition.

Personally, what I like to get from my aunts and uncles is a card, Christmas letter, email, or Facebook message. I don't see them often (funerals and some weddings) as I live far away and am busy working and raising my kids, but they meant a lot to me growing up and I appreciate the gesture particularly if there is a brief personal message.
posted by Area Man at 7:01 AM on December 3, 2015 [9 favorites]

I think this is one of those things that feels more fraught than it is. Sure, a gift from a faraway relative is a nice treat, but it's not expected, and nobody will be too disappointed if it doesn't arrive. In fact, you might be doing everyone a favor by removing the sense of obligation (they may well be thinking, "gee, Aunt Morrigan is awfully nice, but we don't know her very well, this whole exchanging-obligatory-gifts thing is kind of awkward").

I agree that you can simply stop without explanation. It sounds like you have a pleasant but not close relationship with them, and that dynamic can continue with occasional contact and well-wishes instead of gifts exchanged. Send a card with a thoughtful, personal note wishing them all the best in the new year.
posted by adastra at 7:08 AM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was your grand neices growing up with a lot of distant relatives we never met that sent presents, most stopped eventually, and we felt no I'll well forward them. Send just a Christmas card for the whole family instead o
If you like to keep a little contact going.
posted by wwax at 7:19 AM on December 3, 2015

I remember getting cash in birthday cards from my Uncles and Aunties every year... I really looked forward to it every year.

Then all of a sudden, the cash just stopped. I acknowledged that it was an indication I was getting older and I sadly accepted my fate.

The kids may be disappointed, but they'll get over it! Trust me! You don't need to do or say anything, you just stop doing it!
posted by JenThePro at 7:21 AM on December 3, 2015 [5 favorites]

I agree stopping is not a remotely big deal. You could apply an age cutoff of whatever you want as well--18, 12, 7, literally anything. Also (if you want) giving to a young kid and not a college age kid in the same family is fine too. These are all "bonus" gifts. You are a better person than I for giving them in the first place, but even a selfish youngin like me wouldn't remotely blame you for stopping--the gratitude for past gifts remains.

I vaguely remember one uncle/aunt couple who stopped giving when I was a kid and mentioned it to my parents, so they could explain to us if they wanted that it was just an "old enough" thing.
posted by mark k at 7:29 AM on December 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I give very nominal gift cards to the kids of my friends. When they become adults I stop. If we're close, I give their kids a gift card. But I've cut a lot of people from my list because...it gets out of hand.

If these are distant relations that you don't interact with, I'd just send a greeting card and that's it. If anyone asks (and who would have the audacity to do so?) Just tell them 'I'm scaling back,' and leave it at that.

Life is too short.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:55 AM on December 3, 2015

Send just a Christmas card for the whole family instead

This. If you just stop contacting them completely, they may wonder if the thing was lost. If you send a card (or maybe if you want to taper down, some small thing (an ornament?) that is clearly intended for the entire family) they'll get the message that this is the new normal.
posted by anastasiav at 7:58 AM on December 3, 2015 [11 favorites]

My grandfather's cousin used to send me gifts when I was younger, and I loved it. When she stopped she sent a really apologetic card saying she was cutting back for her finances and I felt badly. I'd say just send a card to the whole family with a nice note thinking of them.

If you'd still like to give Something, the same relative used to sometimes send something for the whole family - a fruit basket or pretty centerpiece or some chocolates, and those were also a big hit. But you're certainly not obligated, and definitely don't feel like you need to apologize. You can even simply say in your card that you're cutting back on the gift giving but still wanted to send your best to the whole family.
posted by ldthomps at 8:00 AM on December 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

Gift a heifer (a goat, a rabbit, or fish fingerlings) in the name of each family group.
posted by cleroy at 1:14 PM on December 3, 2015

Cleroy, it sounds like the OP would like to stop any kind of gift giving for reasons I completely understand. I would just send a card for the purposes anastasiav mentioned.
posted by Jubey at 5:06 PM on December 3, 2015

I'd send $50 amazon gift cards to your nieces and nephews in early December. They can keep the money for themselves or they can spend it on the kids. Either way, it's easy for you.
posted by Piedmont_Americana at 3:58 AM on December 4, 2015

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