Dear Kiki: How can I show gratitude and appreciation to my parents?

In this month’s Dear Kiki, we offer some guidance on how to respectfully and thoughtfully express appreciation and gratitude to our parents.

Gifting in Asian cultures

Dear Kiki Show gratitude and appreciation for parents
Photo credit: Unsplash

Dear Kiki,

My dad has been an amazing source of support for our family lately. We have been going through some tough times financially and have had to navigate some health issues. He has been helping us with household chores, taking care of our kid and dog, and helping us get back on our feet. I really want to get him something to show my appreciation, like a nice watch or phone, but I am not sure what. Gifting isn’t a huge thing in our family and we rarely express our feelings verbally. At his age, he has pretty much everything he needs already. Any ideas on what I can give him or do for him to show our gratitude and appreciation?

– Appreciative Son/Daughter

Parents are unsung heroes

Dear Appreciative Son/Daughter,

Parents are superheroes in disguise – they are often there when you need help the most even without your requests. No matter how old you are, you are always still a child to them – to be protected at all times. So it’s important that we look for ways to show gratitude and appreciation to our parents.

Your father is a superhero. I am glad he is able to help you navigate through the tough times and that you are appreciative of him. I can relate to your dilemma growing up in a Chinese Canadian family. My parents take great pride in being supportive to my brother and me in whatever we do or need, whether that be traveling overseas with us to check out universities, listening to us when we have quarter-life crisis, or just buying takeout for us when we have to work overtime in the office. We certainly do not take them for granted, but they would deem gifting as unnecessary as a token of appreciation and shy away from receiving praise. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have other options to show our gratitude and appreciation to our parents!

See also: Dear Kiki: The battle of balancing work and motherhood. How do I do this as a mother-to-be?  

More than a “gift”

In fact, physical gifting is just one of many ways of showing appreciation. Ultimately, conveying your gratitude is at the core of gift-giving and showing appreciation – it’s the thought that counts! Sometimes, just you thanking your father and spending quality time with him may already mean the world to him.  

If you insist on purchasing a physical gift, you should consider what will be most meaningful to your father rather than focusing on “value.” As you noted, he has everything he needs already, but what does he really “want” or “care about” at this stage of his life? Do you know his hobbies/interests? Is there any place that he has always wanted to visit but never gotten the chance? Perhaps you can organize a trip or an experience for your parents? Something sentimental might be an option as well such as a framed family photo that can be passed on generationally.   

Dear Kiki Show gratitude and appreciation for parents
Photo credit: Unsplash

Have conversations with them

Nonetheless, you should not assume any of the above – talk to him! You will be surprised by how much you may not know about him. As we become busier with career and just life in general, we may not notice our parents’ changes. I only recently learned that my father is interested in learning new computer skills; I’d thought he would want to just do nothing but relax upon retirement. Instead of a new watch or a trip to Hawaii, my father would actually prefer receiving lessons from me on Excel and Powerpoint!

See also: Dear Kiki: I want to learn more about my parents’ immigration experience. How can I start a dialogue?

Growing old with them

As much as you may want to buy gifts to express your gratitude and love, the one thing that money can’t buy is time.  Ultimately, you may very well be the best gift to your parents. Consider making it a daily practice to appreciate them and spend quality time with them whenever you can. This is a great way to not only express your gratitude, but to also become closer and enrich your relationship with them. Take interest in what they like and take time out of your day to partake in an activity with them such as cooking with them or going on walks. Sometimes the daily interactions mean much more than a grand gesture.

Dear Kiki Show gratitude and appreciation for parents
Photo credit: Unsplash

Remember, the older we get, the less time remains for us to spend with our loved ones. Don’t be that person who wishes they said this or did that with their parents before it’s too late. Life is too short for regrets, so make your time count with them!            

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