Secret Santa: 7 Golden Rules for Giving

See, Secret Santa is not only about saving the money and the hassle it would entail to shop for all your colleagues. It’s also about building camaraderie and showing that you care about our co-workers. So your attitude towards the whole game impacts your image. Are you thoughtful? Did you bother to buy something appropriate for the person whose name you drew out of the hat? Or are you re-gifting something you got stuck with last year?

Here are 7 golden rules that will help you be the best Secret Santa you can be:

1. Stick to the price limit.This rule applies regardless of who you’re shopping for. It’s tempting to go over the limit established by your group (usually $10-$20) when you’re shopping for your boss, but that can be construed as brown nosing. If you’re buying for someone who is a close friend outside of the office, you may want to get that person two gifts. One as their Secret Santa and another one as their friend.

2. Be a good observer. It’s easier to shop for people you work with closely than for the people you never see except at the Christmas party. Nevertheless, if you walk by their work space, or spend a few minutes talking to them or their colleagues, you might discover that they are sports fans, that they love dogs or that they are coffee drinkers. That should give you good clues for an appropriate gift that will be appreciated.

3. Avoid shopping at dollar stores. Items that look like they came from a dollar store spell “cheap and careless.” You don’t want those words to become your new brand. You may find some great gifts at discount stores such as Target or TJMaxx and make a much better impression.

4. Avoid items that can be perceived as sexual. Whether you’re trying to make a joke or not, stay away from off-color books, any intimate apparel, videos, or other gifts that the person can interpret as a come-on. Even when you happen to have that kind of relationship with the co-worker you’re gifting, it’s best to buy something less controversial.

5. Be aware of cultural differences. Not everyone in your office will appreciate a little porcelain collectible of a manger, a basket with meats and cheeses or one with perfumed soaps and bath salts. Keep these sensibilities in mind.

6. Wrap your gift nicely. A good presentation adds value to your gift and shows that you care about the person. Don’t skip this step.

7. Don’t fret over it. Once you have the name of the person, take a day or two to figure out what their interests are and write down a list of optional gifts. This is particularly important for people you don’t know or people you don’t like. The more you keep it in your head, the harder it seems to get the appropriate gift.

Above all, the holiday season is a time to show your caring side—both at home and at work. If Secret Santa is the way your office is going, try to make the best out of it instead of considering it a chore. You have the chance to make someone happy, so why not?

This article was originally published in Mamiverse.

Prepare Your Kids for Back to School After the Holidays

Wake Up Early: Start waking the kids up at their normal school time several days before they go back, even if they stayed up late the night before. They will likely have no trouble going to bed on time on days when they woke up early.

Talk About School: Keep school at the forefront of your kids’ minds by talking about it each day of the holiday break. Ask them which friends they are looking forward to seeing when they go back and which classes are their favorites. Read books off your kids’ reading lists then ask them questions about the books. If your kids bring their lunch to school, make a calendar with different food options for the first week when they go back.

Keep the Brain Working: There’s an awesome series of books called Summer Fit Learning which is intended to help kids maintain over the summer what they learned during the year. The website offers lots of games for a “fit brain,” along with reading lists, book reports and entertaining activities. Even though it’s not summer, you will still find lots of things to keep your kids engaged.

Set Goals: As part of New Year’s resolutions, encourage your children to set some school-related goals, such as raising a math grade by five points or making one new friend each month. Set your own goals as well—maybe getting up a few minutes earlier each morning to have lunches packed before waking the kids or to give yourself a half hour to exercise or meditate.

Start Off New: Earmark one of your child’s Christmas presents as a special one for the first day back to school. It may be a new shirt, new shoes, a new backpack, zipper pull or locker decoration. Your child will be eager to get back to school to show the new item to his or her friends.

Getting back to school after the extended holiday break doesn’t have to be as stressful as taking a test. Remember to stick as close as you can to the normal wake-up and bedtime routine during the break, but don’t worry about the times when the holiday keeps you out late—just get back on schedule the next day. Routinely engage them in positive conversations about the return to school while they’re still enjoying their break.

This article was originally published on Mamiverse.