High School Graduation

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Parent Q&A

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Should I give high school graduation gifts to daughter's friends?

May 2012

My daughter is graduating BHS next month and I am wondering if there is a protocol for graduation gift giving to her friends. There are a couple of kids we are very close to as a family but this is a really expensive time and giving out more cash isn't in the cards. Do people expect to get a little something from everyone they send announcements to? Does anyone have other non-monetary ideas to acknowledge this great accomplishment? anon

Why do you feel you have to give graduation gifts? Graduating from high school is pretty basic, almost everyone does it so it's actually not that big an achievement. Sending announcements to anyone other than relatives sounds like asking for money for having done what he/she was supposed to have done. If you want to acknowledge it, do so with a card but forget the money. Karen

When our kids had multiple friends graduating from High School,I bought photo albums with the school colors of the colleges they were going to. Then I added ''friends''hearts, sayings stickers, etc to go with the album. That gave them a fun way to start college and a place to start journalling their new adventures! This seemed more personal than a gift card and something they could use and the cost wasn't so obvious. Barbara H, Party Planner

Since you know these soon-to-be graduates well, how about a sincere note with mention of what you appreciate about them and expression of hopes for their future. Something up beat and hopefull to help them move into thefuture with hope and self assurance. Your sincere positive thoughts are what will stick with them most. Another parent

We are going with a personalized calendar. A copy store on upper Solano Avenue will take photos of our daughter's pets off a CD and print them on a ring-bound college-year calendar. They will even pre-mark the calendar with family birthdays, beginning and end of semesters, etc. Congrats to the grad.

Sending high school graduation announcements -- gift request?

May 2009

OK moms and dads, I need your input on this one. It's a 2 part question. My son is about to graduate from high school in a few weeks. He just got graduation announcements (we ordered 20)... So, I sent them to 20 of our closest friends/relatives who don't live around here, who know our family and haven't seen our son in a while.

I'm sending these because we are so proud and I know these people will be happy, nostalgic (wow...where did the time go?..) I know that some of these people will send money gifts to our son....this is where I feel awkward.

I am not sending these as a hope for gifts, but when I receive these announcements, I either WANT to send a gift (niece, close friend), or feel somewhat obligated (and then I do or don't).

I wrote a note in them to make it more personal, but still I just feel a bit awkward....How about all of you?

Part 2- There are a lot of people I would like to send an announcement to....I thought of writing a note to send via e- mail....Similar message....''..we're so proud, he's going to college in..... etc''...Again, not a ploy for gifts, just a happy announcement.

Opinions? Thanks in advance (and yes, I have some money hangups and we are way stretched these days just like everyone else) proud and anon mom

Congratulations to your son on his graduation. Of course you get kudos for nurturing along the way, but it strikes me that you're sending out announcements and you're writing the thank yous. I think it would be more meaningful for your son to send thank yous, after all, he's the recipient of the gifts. As the gift giver, acknowledgment that one's gift arrived safely is reassuring but it's an added bonus when the recipient offers a warm thank you and a little note about future plans. As for the other announcements, I would suggest you send a picture announcement (something like a picture holiday card)to share your happy news. Plenty of websites offer this service at a really great rate right now, like snapfish or costco...or simply make copies of your son's senior picture to a size appropriate to affix to a postcard you can print on (available at any craft store)and mail those out. This requires a bit more work, but I'm sure the recipients of the announcement will appreciate seeing how the your son has grown up. don't stress over someone else's gifts

Unfortunately I always read those announcements - the ones that come pre-printed with the info, and don't include any personal message of any kind - as a hit for a check. Which I usually do send. However, I will confess that it is not sent with the most generous spirit. If I got an announcement with a personal note and a photo I might feel differently. But a mass mailing is a mass mailing.

My son also is graduating from college this fall, from UCLA. Our graduation ''package'' that you pretty much HAD to buy, if you wanted a cap and gown, includes 40 announcements! Yikes! anyway we are going to send them to our family & some friends, not because we are asking for gifts but because we are proud & the cards are beautiful. I think you should send them if you want to, just don't get hurt if people ignore them and don't send any gifts or cards. Some people just don't do that sort of thing, whether money is tight or not. Personally I think ALL graduations are to be celebrated in the manner you like. Sandra

We sent graduation announcements out for my daughter 8 years ago to a mixed and surprising reaction. Some family members did not even send a Congratulatory card, less sent a gift. And I'm a person who always remembers birthdays of nieces and nephews!

The best responses as far as sincere congratulation cards and well wishes came from her former teachers, yes, we did send announcements to them. My boss gave her a large check. He has class !

When she graduated from college,the responses were the same; even though I hosted a fancy dinner for family.

That said, we will probably still send announcements out for her younger brother. We will have a celebratory dinner but again, not expecting anything.

I would not tell people that you are not expecting a gift because so few do it anyway. HOWEVER, if anyone does, please please please send a thank you card ! it really is the thought that counts.

I would love to get an email announcement (esp if it had pictures of the graduate and/or the family). I wouldn't feel obligated to send a present (though might if I felt inclined)...but it is fun to hear what is up with people and their kids (which is probably why people find Facebook so compelling).

Speaking of Facebook, it really bums me out to find out big news about good friends from reading Facebook or their blog...would feel much better getting a note in the mail or email directly. Halfway Old Fashioned

My niece reneged on invitation to her graduation

June 2007

My niece informed me that she only had 7 tickets for her graduation and stated I would be receiving one of them. When her invite arrived, it only stated place of reception without the ''golden ticket'' to the graduation. I called her and asked her and she stated her cousin was flying in from out of town and that she'd be taking my ticket instead and that I shouldn't even try to give her a guilt trip like her father who wasn't going to be able to bring his wife, either, because of the lack of tickets. I stated I was simply calling seeking clarification. I also stated I felt hurt because she stated I would specifically receive a ticket. This niece is a niece who I have loved and cherished throught years and have helped her many a time with her homework assignments esp with strict and last- minute deadlines through many years of her school years. Her mom and I are close but I overheard her mom say she'll just have to get over it because my niece is flying in from the East Coast. My niece then stated she'd try to get me a ticket so I could go to the function. After our phone call, I cried tears of disappointment b/c I simply felt slapped in the face and set aside like garbage. Two weeks go by and I waited each day for the mail and nothing comes. I decided to send my niece a graduation card stating my best wishes and making it clear I had to accept the fact I was not invited. The day of the function, my niece and niece's mother call stating they had ''one ticket'' and that they expected me to come. I couldn't help feeling that the cousin from the East Coast couldn't make it. I told my niece that I waited and waited for the mail and in the end figured I'd make plans with my kids. Niece reminded me that she was going to get me a ticket but I stated that she never bothered to call out of courtesy so I wouldn't make plans. In the end, I made plans with my family and took them to the Oakland Zoo. I told her I would not be able to make it afterall, that I loved her, and wished her good wishes for her graduation. I felt really sad after our call but believed I did the right thing or did I? Was I wrong in not attending or should I have attended regardless? Hurt Auntie

hello auntie, You sound like you must care deeply about this niece - my sister, likewise, loves my two daughters and is very generous with them, goes way out of her way to play and take care of them and help me out and they are young. I can't imagine her not being there when they have important events like graduation. So i can imagine you were extremely hurt by this situation - and perhaps how they dealt with it - ie not telling you very directly etc.

however, i must remind you - that you are the adult in this situation and your niece's MOTHER - your sister or sister in law? should have communicated the situation with you - not just your niece. I think you are being too hard on the niece since it is not at all likely that she made these decisions on her own.

if it were me, i would have gone - only because you can't rewind and go back to something like a graduation - there won't be another high school graduation - and now it is marred with an unpleasant memory. if i were you - i would try to schedule a special lunch or dinner and make sure you two have something happy to remember it by. and next time take a big picture view and see how you can further contribute to your niece's learning - about how to negotiate difficult situations in life, since apparently, she didn't get good coaching this time around! you can tell her how and why your feelings were hurt - but don't put all the blame on her - but she can then learn what not to do next time...but i would also apologize for reacting so harshly and likely also hurting her feelings. be the bigger person, cuz you are!

I am sorry that your feelings were hurt; your niece did not behave well. Having said that, I should add that I have been witness over the years to many conversations about how to divide the very limited number of tickets available for graduations. It is fairly common practice, when deciding between non-immediate family members, to give tickets to relatives or friends who travel a great distance to come to the graduation. That may not seem fair given your obviously close tie to your niece, but it is a common solution to an unhappy problem. With the stress of graduation (and her entry into the uncertainties of adult life!) your niece may have really wavered on what to do. Your recap of your conversation with her reveals signs that the poor girl was being pressed from numerous sides and was depending, in fact, on her close relationship with you for some understanding. In other words, she was counting on the idea that someone (you) who really cared for her welfare would agree to take the stress off and say ''that's fine, I'll come to the other function with bells on.'' Graduation is a beautiful ceremony, but the actual moment of ''your'' grad crossing the stage goes by in the blink of an eye, and you'll have to suffer through many other people crossing the stage in order to get that one moment. It's not like a wedding. Much nicer are the parties after graduation, which can contain little ceremonies too. I think you should have agreed to sacrifice the ticket and then, when offered the opportunity to go to the ceremony, you should have taken it. But in any case, I hope you will offer your niece a token of peace and your love in the very near future, so that you can express what you really want to feel for her. Don't let hurt feelings dominate and erode what has been an important relationship. resentment will get you nowhere

This whole thing was unfortunate and I can understand your feelings. It was insensitive of your niece to not understand and acknowledge how important your graduation was to her and how important you had been in her success, but she obviously did not get any help from her mother in learning either etiquette or how to appreciate and value other people.

It's pointless now to try and say whether or not you did the right thing- it's done- but if you can understand that your niece needs help in becoming a mature and thoughtful person as much as in her academic life, you can express your love and caring by modeling that behaviour and by gently guiding her to mature choices.

You may very well get no sign from her that you are having any effect, but she will at least then have that guidance in her head and it may become useful to her as she grows up and goes along in life. I find myself, even now in my fifties, looking to my memories of one of my great-aunts for love and inspiration.

You've already been loving and generous with her, perhaps more so than her parents have been, and I'd suggest that you continue to be so, if only for the pleasure that it gives you. Cece

In my experience, anytime there is a major life event (wedding, graduation, baptism, etc) in someone's life that person and his/her immediate family tend to get kind of crazy. By crazy, I mean that they become overwhelmed with the importance of the event and become obsessed with every detail, trying to make it their version of perfect. Additionally, the immediate family members often project their own emotions from their own experiences in these same situations onto the person to whom the event is happening. It is an enormous amount of pressure and it takes a very mature person to recognize what is happening and do something to bring things under control. I doubt that your neice could have done so at her young age, with so little life experience.

I feel sorry for what happened to you and think you were right to go ahead and make plans with your immediate family for the day instead of waiting to be offered a ticket from your neice's ''B'' list of invitees. It is OK to have a B list but not OK to let your guests know it. If I were you, I'd let it go but I wouldn't forget that you've seen these people for who they really are in these situations...and most importantly, if I were you, I would keep low expectations as to your participation in any other life events of your neice's so that you don't get hurt again.

This is a difficult lesson to learn where family is concerned. My heart goes out to you. been there

Your neice was rude. Her behavior was wrong. She should never have promised you a ticket and then not given it to you. Period. The cousin flies in from the East Coast? ''Sorry, all the tickets are gone, but you're welcome to come to the party afterwards.'' You were treated inappropriately and it was a very hurtful thing to do. She and her mother should be ashamed. Now, unfortunately, they have some work to do to regain your respect and trust, and all for a 3-hour, mostly boring ceremony. What a shame. You certainly should have gone to the zoo with your kids, rather than to the graduation. It was too little, too late on your neice's part. JMHO. Berkeley Mom of 3

I think that you were treated with inconsideration. For your niece and her mother to allow two weeks to lapse and only call you on the day of the event with an offer of a ticket doesn't provide you with a fair amount of notice. It was healthy for you to plan an outing rather than sit home and brood about not being invited to your beloved niece's graduation.

This being said, I would shake off all feelings of doubt and do your best to stay in your niece's life. Don't perpetuate grudges. Continue to be the loving and generous aunt you always were. Kari

I think that the whole ticket thing for graduation just adds one more family politics nightmare for the poor kids! I'm sure your niece was probably not the one who caused the problems and yes, she probably could have handled it better, but assuming it's a high school graduation, giver her a break.

What I would do, if you're that close, is call her and invite her to lunch or dinner. It will make her feel special. Tell her you're sorry that things got so mixed up and that you really are disappointed that you weren't there, but let her know that you plan on being around for future events or something to that effect. I think you can let her know you were hurt but, really, it's a done deal. Move on and hope that she'll remember next time that she's important to you and vice versa. anon

Yes, you were wrong in not attending. You wanted to go and your niece arranged an invitation. You did not honor your own desires nor your nieces. A big lose lose situation.

I think you behaved selfishly and foolishly and with spite. Your anger and disappointment would have been better directed at the graduation planners who only allowed a small number of tickets rather than at your niece.

Your niece only had seven tickets and had to juggle numerous family members... This is NOT an easy task... someone is going to feel left out no matter what. Perhaps you should feel flattered that she felt close enough to you to ask you to give up your ticket.

Your posting sounded like the whine of a spoiled child when a goody bag isn't presented at the end of a really fun and engaging birthday party. (It seems like you and your niece have had a close relationship... Why ruin that because of a graduation ticket?)

I would hope that you can mend this situation. Attending a graduation does not cement a relationship. Care, concern and empathy are the building blocks of close relationships.

Perhaps you could invite your niece out to a nice lunch to celebrate the graduation.... (Just don't EVER rehash your feelings.) CKC

This was a day that was about your niece, and you made it about you. You definitely should have gone to the celebration despite the shortage of tickets. I guarantee you that boycotting the graduation will be remembered more than all the nice things you did for her. I can't tell you how irritated it makes me when people can't just go with the flow and not take everything so PERSONALLY. Your poor neice, when it's time to throw a wedding she's really going to have to struggle if the whole family demands to be front-and-center all the time! Been there, dealt with narcissistic relatives!

It's not clear from your message whether this is a high school or college graduation. If it was high school, I think you made a mistake. She was being immature for sure, but as the older adult it would have been good of you to accomodate her lack of thoughtfulness, while still letting her know what the right thing to do was (maybe later). If it was a college graduation, I think she should have known better by that age and level of life experience. Anon

You did the right thing in making other plans, and then NOT treating your family as your niece treated you (like trash, or a second choice). I'd urge you to feel as little guilt as possible, understanding that doing the right thing doesn't always feel good.

Reading your letter I confess that my first thought was about whether this spoiled girl expected a present from you, whether or not you came to graduation. My suggestion would have been to send her a graduation card with the note -- ''I was going to give you a present but decided to give it to someone else. If she doesn't want it I'll send it to you later.'' Family shouldn't treat each other that Way

OMG, you are making so much drama out of something that you should have been over in two seconds. If graduation tickets were really that had to come by, I'm sure your niece was really stressed about it. She's young, you're older. You were supposed to support her on her big day, not make it all about you. Grow up! rb

Your niece did not behave gracefully. The situation sounded difficult, with limited tickets, out-of-town visitors, but it was rude of her to dis-invite you. It sounds as if she tried to mend things by tracking down a ticket. But clearly your feelings were already hurt.

You also did not behave gracefully then. The trip to the zoo could easily be rescheduled, but you did not. It sounds as if you only went to punish your niece.

One of you is a kid, which is not a particularly good excuse for rude behavior.

One of you is an adult.

It would have been good if you could have risen above your hurt feelings to be with your niece. Two wrongs don't make a right, and probably don't leave you feeling any better either. anon

It sounds like your feelings were really hurt by the ticket being given and then taken back. I can understand why you would have been disappointed. That said, I think it would have been good to also consider that your niece was in an impossible situation -- she had a very limited number of tickets, and sounds like she has a lot of family that love her and wanted to celebrate her graduation (even family flying in from out of town!). It seems a big (and inappropriate) leap of logic to decide that you not getting a ticket means you are ''garbage''. When she first told you that she could no longer give you a ticket the gracious and forgiving thing to do (given that her graduation is about her, and not you) would have been to say ''I am disappointed but I understand. If a ticket frees up I would wtill love to go. I am really proud of you and want to celebrate with you however I can!'' When she called right before the graduation, and said she now had a ticket free, you should have viewed that as good news, given how much you say you wanted to go (I don't see why it should matter that the ticket freed up because the cousin couldn't fly out -- again, your niece was in an impossible situation with the limited number of tickets). Once she called with the ticket you had a decision to make: did you want to go to the graduation more than follow through on your alternative plans? Seems strange to me that you say you felt so strongly about being included in the graduation, but then when it worked out that you actually could go you declined. Seems punitive to me (you being punitive because you were upset). Sounds to me like you got your feelings hurt and then didn't have any more space for sharing generosity/support/love with your niece, which is unfortunate. You chose to forego the opportunity to celebrate with her, which you said was so very important to you. Seems a mistake to me. Best to always lead with forgiveness/love