Dear Dr. Debbie,
My mother-in-law is talking about giving our five-year-old daughter a necklace that had been her grandmother’s. Don’t you think a kindergartner is a bit young not only to appreciate this sentimental treasure but way too immature to be responsible for its safekeeping?
Respectfully, No Thank You
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I do agree. Now, if you want to take such responsibility, your daughter’s appreciation may come in due time.
Children are interested in the immediate value of a gift. Can I play with it? Can I wear it (but not be responsible for keeping it in good condition)? By the way, I’d offer a similar answer about “giving” a pet to a five-year-old. It’s the adults in the house who need to be ready for maintaining the health of the animal and cleaning up after it.
Back to the heirloom. Gifting something that has been passed down in the family is a wonderful way to keep a connection that transcends time. A sense of history comes with a gift that once belonged to a person who lived a life before yours began. An item made of precious metal works better than, say, a gift of cloth or paper, because it will keep indefinitely. A branch on the family tree is easier to remember if there is a tangible memento attached to an ancestor’s name.
For now, suggest that Grandma find an item of jewelry of her own, neither materially nor sentimentally valuable, that can be a “practice piece” for your daughter. It simply represents their relationship and could be easily replaced if damaged or lost. Something more priceless should be saved for when your child has gained the ability to keep track of and take care of her things.
Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She has a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long-time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.
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What do you think? Email your comments or questions to Dr. Debbie at editor[at]chesapeakefamily.com.