Valentine's Day Comes with a Price Tag?

My 13-year-old daughter received a heart-shaped gold locket as a Valentine's Day present from a boy in her class. I think it's too extravagant a gift for a young teen. I want to ask her to return it, but she tells me many of her girlfriends received -- and gave -- pricey gifts on cupid's holiday. Am I too conservative? Have times changed?

--A Parent Soup member
Question:

We've come a long way from the time when affection could be conveyed with a paper valentine. In our material-driven society, recently fueled by all the shopping sites online, gift giving is often viewed as the best way to attract attention.

Young adolescents, powered by hormones and inexperienced in the dating game, dive in and often wind up over their heads. And there's no doubt that in today's equality-minded environment, girls are as likely to give as to receive. Whether your child is the giver or the recipient, you will probably want to stay informed and be prepared to offer some guidance.

In this situation, obviously this boy cares about your daughter. How does she feel about him? How will accepting this locket affect this relationship? Will she feel pressured into making a commitment to him, going out with him even if she doesn't feel like it? It's exciting to receive a gift from a boy, but if your daughter realizes that the gift comes with strings attached, she may be less inclined to accept it.

It's probably too late for you to ask your daughter to return the necklace. But it's not too late to begin discussing romantic gift giving. Valentine's Day presents the perfect opportunity.

Start by discussing your own shopping plans. Ask your child whether there are any relatives or friends with whom she will be exchanging cards or presents. If your child has any question about the appropriateness of a gift, your comments may encourage her to express her concerns.

Remember the cost of a gift is only part of the equation. If your daughter plans to give a gift to a boy, what message does she believe the gift will send? A personal item like cologne or jewelry has romantic overtones, while a CD or book conveys thoughts of friendship.

Stress that the gift doesn't have to be expensive to be priceless. "It's the thought that counts" may seem like a trite phrase to a material girl (or boy), but with a good example, you may be able to give it new meaning. Take out a special card or book that you saved.

Allow your child to finance her own purchases. Not only will this strategy help to keep down the cost of the present, but will also force your child to think seriously about any purchase. Teens are much more careful when the money they are spending is their own!

Trust your child to do the right thing. Don't insist on seeing your child's purchases. After you have your discussion, you will have given her much food for thought.

Keep the discussion ongoing. Valentine's Day is just one holiday where gift giving may occur. As your child gets older, relationships may become more serious. Your input will be even more valuable.

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