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Buying gifts for your daughter-in-law can be difficult, especially if your relationship isn’t the easiest, which a lot of them aren’t. But whether it’s Mother’s Day, her birthday, or you just want to get your daughter-in-law a little treat, think about giving her something you don’t have to buy.

While store-bought gifts or gift certificates are always welcome, we asked daughters-in-law what they really want from their mothers-in-law. Their answers might surprise you.

Stories about your son

Your daughter-in-law likes to hear these as much as the grandkids do—funny or touching stories about your son as he was growing up.

Stories give her insight into who he is, and paint a picture your daughter-in-law doesn’t always see since she might not have known him then. Old photos are always a hit, too, and bring a good laugh, so take an afternoon and break out the photo albums.

Praise

“You may not always think so, but we do care about what you think,” says a New York City daughter-in-law who has two teenage daughters. “So if we are doing something right, please tell us. It means a lot to hear your compliments.” Added bonus: Opening up the door with praise, just might send it in the other direction too, with your daughter-in-law praising you.

Help

Think back to when you were raising your kids. There was a lot to juggle, and you could always have used extra help. So whether it’s offering to clear the dishes or babysitting the grandkids for an afternoon, daughters-in-law often welcome an extra pair of hands.

“A gesture of offering to help, no matter how small, really helps the relationship, too,” says a New Jersey daughter-in-law with two young children.

“It makes me feel like my mother-in-law understands how tricky raising kids can be, and shows that she cares.”

Respect

To put it simply: Your daughter-in-law wants you to treat her like you would treat a good friend. That’s what creates a positive relationship.

“Call before you stop by, and follow house rules for bedtime and discipline,” says a Philadelphia mom of a young son and daughter. Another thing to try: “Ask your daughter-in-law’s opinion and listen to her advice—that will make her want to do the same for you.”

Family recipes

Do you make the best pasta sauce or brownies around? Are the recipes you use ones that were used by your mother and grandmother?

Sharing family recipes can make your daughter-in-law feel like she is an important part of your family’s cooking history. Type up some recipes on your computer and print them out for her, or send her an electronic version.

If you really want to go full-out, consider going to Shutterfly.com and creating a recipe photo-book she can keep in her kitchen. Just remember to emphasize that you’re giving her the family recipes because you thought she’d like them, not because she’s a terrible cook.

Advice (when asked)

“A lot of us moms are still new at this, and we love good parenting advice,” says a New Jersey daughter-in-law. “But sometimes, when it’s offered without asking, it can come off as criticism.”

Take cues from your daughter-in-law and listen to what she’s saying. If she’s looking for advice, phrase it as, “This is what I used to do…” or “Here’s what worked for me…” That way, she won’t see it as criticism.

Photos and videos

If the grandkids are babies or toddlers, chances are your daughter-in-law and son are always busy running after them, and don’t have much time to take family photos and videos.

What they’d love from you is any photos you snap and videos you take of their child reaching milestones, playing, or simply being adored by family. Family vacations and get-togethers are great picture-taking times, too.

If you’ve got the photos, send them along to her. She’ll be ever-thankful.

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