As if the holidays weren’t stressful enough, you may be feeling some extra tension over what to give a certain member of your family—namely, your daughter-in-law. That’s especially true if you’re not on, shall we say, the best of terms with your son’s wife.
Don’t fret, it’s not just you: Conflicts between mothers and daughters-in law are common, says Eastern Connecticut State social psychology professor Madeleine Fugère.
You may even be hard-wired to clash. Some research suggests that stubborn evolutionary principles discourage you from embracing your child’s wife.
How the right gift can help
Whatever the reason for the tension, the holidays can be a chance to strengthen your bond with the right gift—or at least not leave it more frayed than ever. While the dynamics of gift-giving can be tricky for anyone, there are some guidelines to keep in mind when you’re dealing with your child’s wife.
Most importantly, your daughter-in-law needs to feel like you value her as part of your family, says Deanna Brann, a psychotherapist and author of Reluctantly Related: Secrets to Getting Along with your Mother-in-Law or Daughter-in-Law.
“One of the things daughters-in-law struggle with is that they want to know they matter, not just as your son’s wife or as just the mother of your grandkids, but they want to be respected and they want to matter,” Brann says. A gift helps you convey the message that you’re interested in a meaningful relationship.
How gift-giving can backfire
On the other hand, make sure your gift doesn’t send a sour signal. Susan Liberman, author of The Mother-in-Law’s Manual: Proven Strategies for Creating and Maintaining Healthy Relationships with Married Children, suggests some some basic rules.
Don’t gift a class or service unless you include a note explaining your intentions. A cooking class might imply your daughter-in-law is lousy in the kitchen, for example, while a cleaning service might signal that you think her house is dirty.
And an envelope with cash is nice, but alone it can feel thoughtless; Instead, pair a small gift with a bigger gift certificate “I hope along with this small gift you will treat yourself to something bigger,” is something you might write on a card.
Get help from your DIL’s peers
Finally, if you’re not sure what your daughter-in-law—or DIL—likes, ask your son for help. Or find inspiration on this list of gifts that are popular among millennial women.
For the DIL who likes clothes but doesn’t have the time to shop: Sign her up for a subscription fashion service such as Rent the Runway or Stitch Fix. With both, your daughter-in-law can receive a curated mix of clothes every month based on her tastes (which she can keep or return) or choose individual items for herself. Price: $69 to $220 a month, depending on how much you buy
For the DIL who wants to be more savvy about wine: A Wine of the Month Club subscription takes the guessing out of choosing a good wine (who knows, maybe she’ll invite you over to share a bottle). Price: $129 a year and up, depending on the plan
For the DIL who wants to feel like a celebrity: Book an appointment with Glamsquad for date night or an event, and a makeup and hair team will come straight to her door to provide a luxurious pampering.
Glamsquad is available only in select areas, though other companies around the country offer similar services. Price: $63 to $375, depending on the number of services in the package
For the DIL who’s stretched thin: An offer to babysit your grandchildren for a night or weekend takes the pressure off both members of the couple. Insist on scheduling the time you’re babysitting so that it actually happens, says Brann.
For the DIL who craves a spa experience but is pressed for time: Treat her to some of the most popular skincare items available–like face masks and at-home micro-needling tools—to help her glow-from-within really shine through.
Sephora has a handy Gift Finder quiz to help you narrow your search. Price: $20 and up
For the DIL who needs a relaxation break: With “self-care” being among one of the buzziest phrases of the past year, things like a subscription to the Calm meditation app or noise-cancelling headphones are ultra-popular. Price: $59 a year for Calm; headphone prices vary
For the DIL who believes everything happens for a reason: A personalized astrology reading from Co-Star Astrology or this Etsy shop will send her into the heavens, helping her project happiness and well-being into the new year. Price: $73
For the DIL who dreams about her favorite pasta: Get her a gift certificate to her favorite restaurant, but don’t forget that personal note to go along with it.
For the DIL who always has her camera out: A portrait session at a local photography studio is the perfect way to help her capture precious moments with family. But this time, she’s in the picture, too. Price: $40 to $200